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Solar flares and computer woes Comment on this post ↓
May 7th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Did massive DDoS attack or the sun

cause huge Internet disruptions? Or, both?

The sun sends out rays – an unusual barrage of them. Did they cause the Internet disruptions?

IS THERE, perhaps, a common link (or two) in the failures of massive computer systems – like the April 9 “crash” at American Airlines – being reported recently around the globe?
Both Network Solutions, which manages over 7 million domain names worldwide, and Google also reported network-wide problems during the same period.
Could it be the sun’s fault?
The Space.com web site headline on April 11 gives us the first clue: “Sun unleashes biggest solar flare of the year yet.”
“The solar flare occurred at 3:16 a.m. EDT and registered as a M6.5-class sun storm, a relatively mid-level flare on the scale of solar tempests,” Tariq Malik reported.
“It coincided with an eruption of super-hot solar plasma known as a coronal mass ejection.”
You can also watch an awesome video of the event at the site.

IN AN UPDATE on April 16, NASA said  a coronal mass ejection (CME), associated with the April 11 solar flare, hit Earth’s magnetic field on April 13, but the impact was weak so only high latitude aurora were visible. See some awesome recent pictures of the heavens at the NASA web site.
At its site we learn that NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration  – as well as the US Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) and others – “keep a constant watch on the sun to monitor for space weather effects such as geomagnetic storms. With advance notification many satellites, spacecraft and technologies can be protected from the worst effects.”
Well, I thought I was onto something.

THE STUDENT NEWSPAPER Courier, where until recently I was the adviser, is hosted on Network Solutions servers. It started experiencing network instability in the early hours on April 10 (PDT).
Three tech support crew members were woken before dawn and worked frantically at the NetSol management site, but it too was responding uncommonly slowly, if at all.
By 7 a.m. the crew restored some access for what was anticipated to be one of the biggest readership days of the year.
The site continued to be unstable for over a week.
Meanwhile, just around sunup Pacific Time on April 17, I was chatting with renowned media analyst and journalist Jim Romenesko on Facebook. His site is hosted by Google.
I offered to occasionally forward him emails from the White House that I received regularly about the president’s events and announcements. He provided his public email address. I KNOW I copied it accurately into my address book.
Within an hour, my first email was returned by that guy MAILER-DAEMON. Know him? Bet he’s been busyrecently!
Then I simply clicked on the link “Send news tips …”  on Romenesko’s site (check it out sometime, it’s awesome ) so this time there was no doubt the address was correct.
Bam! About an hour later, it too bounced back.
I notified Romenesko about this through Facebook. He provided an alternate address. My third attempt succeeded in seconds.
About the last thing Romenesko said before we both signed off was that Google had been experiencing instability, too. That might explain why his public email, which also goes through Google servers, was behaving badly.
And, indeed, PCMag reported at 11:23 EST April 17 that Google did have trouble that morning, but the search giant later said stability had been restored.
“According to the Google Apps Status Dashboard, Gmail, as well as Google Drive, Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations were hit with unexplained interruptions between 9 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Eastern,” PCMag reports.
Unexplained?

I posted a somewhat different version of this on Facebook on April 18, and alerted Barbara Strauch, Science Editor at The New York Times.
She, however, was smarter than I.
There might have been another contributing factor – but that doesn’t rule out electromagnetic disruption by the sun.
As Nicole Perlroth reported in The New York Times on April 26, around the same time as the spike in solar activity, a massive Denial Of Service (DDoS) attack was launched on the Internet by a suspected spam clearing house in Spain.
The report, which ran in the Business Section of the print edition of the National Edition, was sparked by the arrest in Spain of Sven Olaf Kamphuis, a 35-year-old Dutch man suspected of being behind Cyberbunker; he is also reportedly known as the “Prince of Spam.” Read Perlroth’s story here.
“Last month, Spamhaus, an antispam group based in Geneva, added CyberBunker to its blacklist, which is used by major e-mail providers to block spam,” Perlroth wrote.
This is said to have so angered Kamphuis that he retaliated with his massive arsenal of bot computers – and might have disrupted the internet around the globe.
I’m a person with scant knowledge of science, but my journalistic training comes in useful in connecting the dots.
I thought I had the answer April 17 while I was sitting in traffic on one of the Los Angeles freeways basking in the glorious rays of El Sol streaming through my open sunroof. It was such a beautiful day in L.A.
Now I’m not so sure.
Is anyone?



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