Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


U.S.-Based Internet Traffic Was Redirected To China, Researchers Say

For 18 minutes, world's Internet traffic was in China's hands

Researchers this week revealed that a major portion of the world's Internet traffic was redirected to China's primary telecommunications carrier for a period of about 20 minutes earlier this year.

"At 15:54 GMT on April 8, 2010, McAfee detected a routing announcement from China’s state-controlled telecommunications company, China Telecom, which advertised 15 percent of the world’s Internet routes," said researchers at security company McAfee in today's blog. "For at least the next 18 minutes -- up until China Telecom withdrew the announcement -- a significant portion of the world's Internet traffic was redirected through China to reach its final destination."

The redirected traffic included data from U.S. military and government networks, civilian organizations, and U.S. allies, such as South Korea, India and Australia, the blog states. Commercial companies were also affected.

"What happened to the redirected traffic during those 18 minutes? That's a great question, but no one except China Telecom operators is in a position to answer it," the blog states. "Emails, instant messages, and VoIP calls could have been intercepted and logged. Data could have also been changed as it was passing through the country as well. The possibilities are numerous and troubling, but definitive answers are unknown."

The incident is one of the biggest routing hijacks McAfee has ever seen, the blog states. "And it could happen again, since a number of major telecommunications companies routing a lot of Internet traffic have the same capability."

The incident is not classified as a cyberattack because websites were not hacked or shut down, McAfee says. In fact, most users probably didn't notice that anything happened at all.

McAfee said it has briefed various government officials during the past six months on this incident, but many were not alarmed, saying their Internet communications are encrypted. "However, encryption works on a basis of trust, and trust can be exploited," the blog says.

Most computer users don’t know that Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other software makers embed root certificates in their operating systems -- certificates that are also trusted to not be abused, the blog says. There are dozens of these certificates embedded on a typical computer configuration. Among the certificates is one from the China Internet Network Information Center, an arm of the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry.

"With the capability to intercept sensitive communications of companies using these trusted certificates embedded in their browsers and operating systems, the owner of the certificate can break by man-in-the-middling many secure SSL communication,s such as secure Web browsing, VPN, and instant messaging," McAfee says.

The incident took advantage of the vulnerabilities in the design of the Internet's fundamental building blocks --namely, its routing protocols – and those vulnerabilities that were present in April remain present today, McAfee says.

"Not only can this problem happen again, but it probably will," the blog says. "We have no way of knowing whether this event was done with malicious intent in mind, or was an accidental failure, as China Telecom operators have suggested. But it's clear that with this capability demonstrated publicly, sooner or later someone will use it for nefarious purposes."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
Mozilla Firefox 20.0a1 and earlier allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash), related to event handling with frames.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
inets in Erlang possibly 22.1 and earlier follows RFC 3875 section 4.1.18 and therefore does not protect applications from the presence of untrusted client data in the HTTP_PROXY environment variable, which might allow remote attackers to redirect an application's outbound HTTP traffic to an arbitra...
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
A denial of service vulnerability has been reported in Lenovo Energy Management Driver for Windows 10 versions prior to that could cause systems to experience a blue screen error. Lenovo Energy Management is a client utility. Lenovo XClarity Energy Manager is not affected.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
A potential vulnerability has been reported in Lenovo Power Management Driver versions prior to leading to a buffer overflow which could cause a denial of service.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
IBM Cloud Pak System 2.3 is vulnerable to cross-site request forgery which could allow an attacker to execute malicious and unauthorized actions transmitted from a user that the website trusts. IBM X-Force ID: 158015.