Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hackers secretly redirecting web traffic around the world

Internet experts say huge chunks of sensitive web traffic have been routinely hijacked by hackers and diverted to foreign computers, compromising the data of victims in at least 150 cities worldwide.

Researchers at New Hampshire-based global internet intelligence company Renesys say that they’ve witnessed a complex type of Man-in-the-Middle attack occur on computer networks no fewer than 60 days this year already, the likes of which they say should never have happened.

In incidents described in a report released by Renesys last month, the firm claims that web data from major financial institutions, government agencies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) alike were all compromised when unidentified hackers exposed a rarely-discussed vulnerability in order to almost silently divert that information away from its intended destinations, and instead route it abroad to be collected, read and then re-sent to the rightful recipient.

The method of attack exploits a vulnerability in the Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP, and takes advantage of the fact that much of the information routed through the global system of networks considered to be the backbone of the internet is exchanged based off of little more than trust among administrators.

BGP is "essentially the glue that holds the disparate parts of the Internet together," Jennifer Rexford, a computer science professor at Princeton University, told the Washington Post’s Andrea Peterson last month.

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