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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Friday, 26 April 2019 14:54

How a Nigerian ISP Accidentally Hijacked the Internet

For 74 minutes, traffic destined for Google and Cloudflare services was routed through Russia and into the largest system of censorship in the world, China's Great Firewall.

On November 12, 2018, a small ISP in Nigeria made a mistake while updating its network infrastructure that highlights a critical flaw in the fabric of the Internet. The mistake effectively brought down Google — one of the largest tech companies in the world — for 74 minutes.

To understand what happened, we need to cover the basics of how Internet routing works. When I type, for example, HypotheticalDomain.com into my browser and hit enter, my computer creates a web request and sends it to Hypothtetical.Domain.com servers. These servers likely reside in a different state or country than I do. Therefore, my Internet service provider (ISP) must determine how to route my web browser's request to the server across the Internet. To maintain their routing tables, ISPs and Internet backbone companies use a protocol called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).