Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Rise of The Dark Cloud

For nearly as long as the internet has been around there have been private subnetworks called the darknets. These private, covert and often secret networks were typically formed as decentralized groups of people engaged in the sharing of information, computing resources and communications typically for illegal activities.

Recently there has been a resurgence in interest of the darknet ranging from the more unsavory such as P2P filesharing and botnets as well as more mainstream usages such as inter-government information sharing, bandwidth alliances or even offensive military botnets. All of these activities are pointing to a growing interest in the form of covert computing I call "dark cloud computing" whereby a private computing alliance is formed. In this alliance members are able to pool together computing resources to address the ever expanding need for capacity.

According to my favorite source of quick disinformation, The term Darknet was originally coined in the 1970s to designate networks which were isolated from ARPANET (which evolved into the Internet) for security purposes. Some darknets were able to receive data from ARPANET but had addresses which did not appear in the network lists and would not answer pings or other inquiries. More recently the term has been associated with the use of dark fiber networks, private file sharing networks and distributed criminal botnets.

The botnet is quickly becoming the tool of choice for governments around the globe. Recently Col. Charles W. Williamson III. staff judge advocate, Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, writes in Armed Forces Journal for the need of botnets within the US DoD. In his report he writes " The world has abandoned a fortress mentality in the real world, and we need to move beyond it in cyberspace. America needs a network that can project power by building an robot network (botnet) that can direct such massive amounts of traffic to target computers that they can no longer communicate and become no more useful to our adversaries than hunks of metal and plastic. America needs the ability to carpet bomb in cyberspace to create the deterrent we lack."

I highly doubt the US is alone in this thinking. The world is more then ever driven by information and botnet usages are not just limited to governments but to enterprises as well. In our modern information driven economy the distinction between corporation and governmental organization has been increasingly blurred. Corporate entities are quickly realizing they need the same network protections. By covertly pooling resources in the form of a dark cloud or cloud alliance, members are able to counter or block network threats in a private, anonymous and quarantined fashion. This type distributed network environment may act as an early warning and threat avoidance system. An anonymous cloud computing alliance would enable a network of decentralized nodes capable of neutralizing potential threats through a series of counter measures.

My question is: Are we on the brink of seeing the rise of private corporate darknets aka dark clouds? And if so, what are the legal ramifications, and do they out weight the need to protect ourselves from criminals who can and will use these tactics against us?

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