DDoS attacks demonstrate need to reduce government internet access points

The network attacks that severely disrupted several US government websites this week highlights the need for the American government to quickly finish its consolidation of Internet access points, it was said today.

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Multiple government websites, including that of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of the Treasury, were temporarily knocked out or slowed down earlier this week by a wave of distributed denial of service attacks.

The attacks were launched from a botnet believed to comprise of nearly 50,000 infected computers, and were designed to render websites inaccessible by inundating them with useless traffic.

Security researchers have described the attacks as being relatively unsophisticated. Even so, the attacks still managed to totally shut down the websites of the FTC and Department of Transportation for several hours over the weekend, according to statistics available from Internet monitoring firm Keynote Systems.

The most important lesson learned is that many federal agency security people did not know which network service provider connected their websites to the Internet, said Alan Paller, director of research the SANS Institute. "So they could not get the network service provider to filter traffic," Paller said.

The problem has to do with that federal agencies have more access points to the Internet than they know how to monitor or to manage, said Karen Evans, former de facto CIO of the federal government during the Bush administration.

An initiative called the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) program, which was launched in November 2007, is designed to tackle this issue by getting agencies to drastically reduce the number of individual external network connections, including those to the Internet.

Since the effort was launched, the number of access points across government has been reduced from more than 4,300 to about 2,750, per the last time data on the effort was publicly released in June 2008. The goal is to whittle that number down to about 80.

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