Terrorist attack on the Internet? No problem

Through simulations of the impact an accident or attack on Internet would have, researchers found that the Internet is surprisingly resilient to damage

The Internet is probably a lot sturdier than you think, according to an Ohio State University study that included simulated attacks.

"There are so many interconnections within the network that it would be difficult to find enough targets, and the right targets, to do serious damage to Internet reliability nationwide," said Morton O'Kelly, co-author of the study and professor of geography at Ohio State, in a statement.

Researchers at the school simulated what impact an attack or accident knocking out various parts of the Internet would have. To keep things manageable, they focused on five of the more than 30 major commercial Internet backbone providers and three of the major public access points (in Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco). Overall, they simulated disruption or failures on connections between 946 city pairs.

The study builds on research O'Kelly's team did in 2003 that assumed certain city network nodes were completely out of service. But the team decided that assumption wasn't realistic given the web of connections linking such nodes would likely keep service alive, even if at degraded quality. Peering agreements between service providers would play a key role in keeping traffic flowing.

One significant finding was that, while even if a large number of city pairs were disrupted, it's most damaging if certain key links are attacked or fail.

Other findings included that even if the two locations of a city pair were far apart, such as Boston and Seattle, it might still be among the most reliable, depending on the network of networks between them.

"If our simple model was resilient to damage, the real Internet would be much better off because it has so many more hubs and links than we hand in our study," O'Kelly said in a statement.

Still, it's not like those who work on Internet technologies are resting on their laurels. Plenty of work has been done in recent years to ensure that the Internet is resilient and becomes more so as it becomes more vital to so many segments of life.

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