Breaking the Internet

Last January a dude discovered a way to break the Internet. Like, completely. Thankfully, he was one of the good guys. Wired has a good writeup, although it’s a little short:

Paul Vixie, one of the creators of the most widely used DNS software, stepped out of a conference in San Jose. A curious email had just popped up on his laptop. A guy named Kaminsky said he’d found a serious flaw in DNS and wanted to talk. He sent along his phone number.

Vixie had been working with DNS since the 1980s and had helped solve some serious problems over the years. He was president of the Internet Systems Consortium, a nonprofit that distributed BIND 9, his DNS software. At 44, he was considered the godfather of DNS. If there was a fundamental error in DNS, he probably would have fixed it long ago.

But to be on the safe side, Vixie decided to call Kaminsky. He picked up immediately and within minutes had outlined the flaw. A series of emotions swept over Vixie. What he was hearing shouldn’t be possible, and yet everything the kid said was logical. By the end of the third minute, Vixie realized that Kaminsky had uncovered something that the best minds in computer science had overlooked. This affected not just BIND 9 but almost all DNS software. Vixie felt a deep flush of embarrassment, followed by a sense of pure panic.

“The first thing I want to say to you,” Vixie told Kaminsky, trying to contain the flood of feeling, “is never, ever repeat what you just told me over a cell phone.”

They kept it secret for months, until they were forced to reveal details to the internet security community and it leaked in days.