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Toasters are breaking the Internet
October 22, 2016
It's not just the toasters. They have friends. A large group of cameras, DVD players, thermostats, and, yes, toasters are attacking us. They're breaking the Internet. It's not science fiction.

The toasters don't particularly hate us. At least, we hope they don't. They've been hacked and organized into an army of tiny devices. On the attacker's command, this army attacks a victim.

The attack is similar to death by a thousand cuts.

The hacker is smart. The hacker is not attacking any particular website, but going after critical Internet infrastructure. When the core infrastructure goes down, all the services and websites depending on it also go down.

Our services went down because our cloud provider, Heroku, went down. I get automated Pagerduty calls when that happens. Sometimes at 3 am. I didn't get any calls because Pagerduty also went down.

The attack broke the tools we use to monitor attacks.

I naturally went on Twitter to complain, but it was also down. I felt sympathy for people living in oppressive countries; a major event is happening, and you can't even tell the world because Twitter is not working.

The Internet was designed to survive a nuclear war. Now, toasters are breaking it. How did we get here?

The Internet design was not perfect, to begin with, but over time we introduced trusted parties into the core infrastructure. Trusted parties that resolve names to IP addresses or provide security certificates. If you take out these trusted parties, you can take down the most critical communications infrastructure of the world.

The Internet core is more fragile than we think.

We're trying to create a more secure Internet at Blockstack that doesn't have central points of trust or failure. Every morning, my toaster is going to give me an additional reason to be excited about going to work.
Comments? Tweet them @muneeb

Muneeb Ali
Dr. Muneeb Ali is the co-founder of Stacks, bringing apps and smart contracts to Bitcoin. He serves as the CEO of Hiro that is building developer tools for Stacks. He received a PhD in distributed systems from Princeton. → Learn more