The Internet – “Potentially the most critical of critical national infrastructure”

The internet is not new. Developed in the 60s for military purposes and evolving in both scope and popularity ever since, the Internet has become second nature to much of the developed world. When Tim Berners Lee formulated the linkage between the hypertext mark-up language (HTML) and the internet that spawned the graphical, interactive World Wide Web as we know it, who would have thought the internet would become the essential “commerce and communications” hub it now is.

But all of that “usefulness” and “interesting stuff” does not come without concern. Use of the internet is for all intents, unpoliced, unlicensed and without service levels. For many the internet has been used to transport and transact virtually every form of digital information that can be encapsulated into an IP network packet. To that end the last decade has normalised the use of the internet for essential commercial and fundamental electronic communications – and in the eyes of many it is clear that we may now fail to function effectively without it.

It’s no longer just about technical topics like “internet security” or “latency”, but the quasi business aligned perspectives that include customer satisfaction, yield, loyalty, advocacy and customer retention. And magically, all of these elements are often realised at a marginal cost when compared to the “off internet” legacy approach.  This has propelled the internet to become a real “critical national infrastructure” element as essential to the business world as it is the personal world. But what happens if the internet disappears, fails, or is compromised? – dare we think of the day the internet finally “stops”.

Thankfully there are many supremely capable technical individuals around the world tasked with ensuring the internet doesn’t fail and due to inherent multiple levels of technical resilience, a full scale internet shut down is unlikely (but not impossible), however it is now a straightforward activity to shut down a corporate web server or the online presence of an organisation or group of organisations. The now infamous DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack is a commonly used approach to bombard a named web presence with unrequested traffic until it overloads and ceases to function.

Due to the essential commercial value delivered by corporate web sites and the financial revenue impact (and equally customer loyalty / goodwill) of a period offline, protection against DDOS and other malicious hacking approaches to take a web platform offline must now be fundamental to all. This week we have seen heightened awareness due to of one of the biggest cyber attacks of its kind involving a DDOS attack on a particular organisation at a level fourfold greater than had ever been previously experienced.  And for those aforementioned organisations underpinned by the internet, this mass DDOS attack has allegedly “slowed down worldwide internet traffic”.    

It may be time for you to consider a number of key points – is the internet an essential communications and commercial transport layer for your organisation?” and if yes, “What is the maximum period of offline activity could your organisation tolerate (i.e. no web presence, email availability or web access)?” and finally, “how slow is slower for your organisation when discussing internet related performance concerns”.

The web facing Internet presence of an organisation performs many key functions; most importantly acting as the prospect or customer initial “landing zone or gateway to the organisation”.  When discussing the corporate visibility on the net – now you see it, now you don’t is definitely NOT a humorous customer experience.

It’s time for DDOS protection for all.

Until next time.

Twitter: @colinwccuk

 

 

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About Colin Williams

Colin is Computacenter's Practice Leader for Networking, Visual Collaboration & Security @colinwccuk

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