In 2014, hackers stole millions of dollars a day in cryptocurrency from several owners. In 2017, almost the whole United States suffered from internet outage for hours. Last year, Google cloud also experienced hours of interruptions. In May 2019, a bulk of European mobile data was re-routed from a Chinese Telecom backed by the European states. Also recently, website services around the globe- including Cloudflare an internet infrastructural firm also experienced several hours of outages. These incidents may seem different and resulted from some malicious attack or technical problem, but they all coincide with the fundamental internet routing system called border gateway protocol.
It is true that the web is distributed but as the name suggests – it also is interconnected. It has to be so dispersed as well as connected so that data can smoothly move around worldwide without being controlled by a single entity. When you send, receive or request any data over the internet, the route that data takes across the network is basically optimized by the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). And when it goes sideways, everything goes wrong.
Let me inform you, the version of BGP used today was last updated in 1994. Since then it hasn’t been scaled with the advancement in technology. We all know it for a fact that the internet is significantly different from what it used to be 25 years ago. Obviously, BGP design included the risks of data manipulation, outages, and data breaching. But despite that, it isn’t being modified for the new demands of tech world.
Our internet service providers, providing IP addresses and routes to us to access the online world, also utilize BGP. You can think of it as a cross-country drive. One need to find different shortest and traffic-free routes to the destination, and can’t afford to get lost on some unknown highway with no particular destination.
It is crucial for data to get to the assigned destination without getting lost. But BGP was developed around a very slippery factor called trust. Back then there was no threat of malicious attacks, viruses, and hijacks. Border gate protocol is basically not being designed to verify every route from each individual network. If these autonomous systems are hijacked and move all the transferring data towards inaccurate routes or data starts flowing backwards- these situations can lead to great connectivity and cybersecurity issues.
Well, BGP is just not an old internet system that has great test issues. Another very crucial fundamental protocol is DNS (Domain Name System) also faced the same issues. DNS acts as an address book to BGP’s navigation system. DNS hijacking also came up as a great security concern all across the globe. Even Department of Homeland Security, in January 2019 issued an emergency command especially aimed at DNS accounts’ defense.
After realizing the need for BGP’s security, internet preservation and standard’s community took serious measures to secure the BGP. They are trying to integrate route authentication factors into it for the secure passages. National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2017, collaborated with DHS to develop a set of routing defense standards. In 2018, researchers also provided a BGP defense framework for all the network operators. This research was funded b DHS, European Research Council, and National Science Foundation.
A secure BGP can power internet service providers for the safe passage of data. Though most of the internet service providers provide their customers with defense suites to secure them from the malicious attacks and to mask their identity they won’t be sufficient until Border Gate Protocol is not secure.