Every now and then, something unusual happens on the internet which no one can explain. Earlier this week, a lot of web traffic destined for major sites and platforms was routed through Russian servers for some unknown reason. This did not affect users directly, as they were still able to access the information requested. However, it seems something went wrong with the Border Gateway Protocol, and no one knows for sure exactly what went down.
An Intentional Border Gateway Protocol Error?
It is evident Russia doesn’t have the best of reputations when it comes to Internet activity right now. The country is often scrutinized for its involvement in spying on other nations, hacking efforts, and potentially even influencing elections. While most of this has yet to be proven, no one can deny something odd happened earlier this week. For some reason, a lot of web traffic was routed through Russia for no apparent reason.
More specifically, anyone trying to access Facebook, Apple, Google, or Microsoft’s sites was briefly routed through an unknown Russian internet provider, affecting both incoming and outgoing traffic. As most people know by now, internet traffic is often handed off from one ISP to another, which puts the information on the fastest path depending on the user’s location. Russia is not normally a “stop” on the way to any of the aforementioned destinations.
Given that all of this web traffic flowed through a previously unknown Russian ISP, there is reason for concern. Considering that no one was aware this entity existed, it shouldn’t even be part of the Border Gateway Protocol. The big question is whether or not any information was logged and stored for future reference. So far, there has not been any official comment from the Russian government on the matter.
Sadly, it is not the first time we’ve seen an incident occur on this scale. Around eight months ago, a large amount of network traffic belonging to financial services including MasterCard and Visa was routed through a Russian government-controlled telecom. The circumstances of that incident have not been clarified to this day, although it doesn’t appear as if anything negative has come from it. Taken together, both events raise a lot of questions, and no one has provided any real answers yet.
All of this makes the Border Gateway Protocol look bad, as there are more concerns over the validity, reliability, and trust associated with this communication protocol. Considering that sensitive internet traffic was routed through Russia twice in less than a year, something is not adding up. Whether any of this was done intentionally or through hacking methods remains unknown. For now, the incident has been labeled as “suspicious and intentional”, although the investigation is still ongoing.
It will be interesting to see if this development has any major impact on the net neutrality discussions. It is evident a lot of things are going on which can’t be readily explained. The BGP will have to undergo some serious scrutiny before we can even remotely grasp the full consequences of this situation. No information on the internet is safe from prying eyes, as this story confirms.