Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cyber Warfare - The Next Big Networking Market

This article was originally published in October of 2012 at 10GbE.net.


As someone who hacked systems using a 300 Baud modem several decades ago, and who now sells extreme networking technology I find recent Cyber Warfare announcements exciting.  Last month DARPA, the bleeding edge research arm of the defense department, announced PlanX, and it's funding target of $100M over four years.  Last week US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta confirmed the US's desire to lead the world in Cyber Warfare preparedness.  He also stated that Iran has set aside $1 Billion to dramatically improve it's position given recent difficulties with Stuxnet and it's offspring.  We've also seen stories out of China, Israel and North Korea in the past two months about these states are officially assembling troops of cyber warriors.

So what does this mean for networking vendors?  A whole new market for leading edge products that enable defensive and offensive cyber weapons.  For example Myricom's processor based 10Gb Ethernet network adapters have an optional available software product called Sniffer10G.  This software bundle contains both firmware for the processor on the adapter and a high performance user space device driver. This package enables lossless wire-rate packet capture and injection.  In the world of kinetic weapons Sniffer10G is the kevlar (capture technology) in Dragon Skin Body Armor, and the repeating/propulsion mechanism (wire-rate 10GbE injection) behind high caliper rail guns.  

Sniffer10G comes with some foundational command line tools designed to stress test and demonstrate both capture and injection.  It's the API though that allows low level access to the hardware, where Sniffer10G really shines.  Sniffer can flow-hash or clone inbound traffic into one or more (up to 16) different user space queues.  It can also re-inject those queues, or other ones, directly onto the ethernet at wire-rate.  

Imagine if you will synthetically spinning up a 5GB buffer containing a broad array of packets designed to achieve a specific military objective. Sniffer10G gives you the capability to blast all those packets out to your enemy over a single network port in a whopping four seconds!  With just two dual port cards in a single server and Sniffer10G this could easily scale to 5GB/second.  At 5GB/s one could easily cripple over 40 traditional servers with Gigabit ethernet links.  As an offensive weapons platform this could easily be assembled for under $5K.  The most challenging part would be positioning it on the Internet in such a way that the ISP wouldn't shut you down after your first offensive.  Then again governments can easily bypass these trivial ISP issues. 

If you want to learn more, or discuss this further please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

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