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DoS Attack Cripples Internet Root Servers

The 13 servers that help manage worldwide Internet traffic were hit Tuesday by a denial-of-service attack that nearly took down three of them.

It was the fiercest attack on the 13 root servers since an October 2002 assault that took down many of the roots that help manage worldwide Internet traffic, according to Ben Petro, a senior VP of NeuStar, which provides clearinghouse services to the communications and Internet industry. Three of the servers were nearly overloaded by the attack, but they didn't go down, says Petro, who adds that they were in a slowed-down brownout stage.

Tuesday's attack nearly matched the 2002 attack in terms of strength but surpassed the old attack in sophistication, Petro says. The servers didn't go down this time because of the significant increase in computing power in the last four years and because the roots' defenses have been heavily beefed up since then.

"If you take down the roots, you take down the Internet," says Petro. "By comparison, if you take down a company, that hurts them. But this is just an attack of a very different scale. When you see someone going after root, it's an attack directly at the infrastructure of the Internet."

Petro, though, says the Internet was not close to going down Tuesday. He notes that those three servers were heavily strained, but they withstood the attack and the disturbance wasn't noticeably felt around the globe.

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