As I was doing some research for my summer internship this past Thursday, my travels on the internet lead me to explore more about the NSA security guides. As I tried to navigate my browser to the main NSA page, it proved unresponsive. I thought to myself, well this is quite odd, how come one of the agencies that is charged with cyber security is down.
As it turns out, the DNS servers used to turn web addresses into computer and network readable IP addresses for NSA.gov were unavailable. A spokesperson for the NSA said that their two DNS servers had become unreachable Thursday morning. As for the reason behind this error, McPherson (a industry analyst) had this to say,
“It’s either an internal routing problem of some sort on their side or they’ve messed up some firewall or [access control list] policy,” he said. “Or they’ve taken their servers offline because something happened. That “something else” could be a technical glitch or a hacking incident,” McPherson said.
Recommendations to avoiding this type of problem were also offered by McPherson saying that the NSA should have hosted the two DNS servers on different machines for redundancy. Additionally the server that the DNS resides on is also home to the NCSC (National Computer Security Center) which means, if exploited, hackers would have access to truly valuable information.
I also had trouble accessing the website sporadically on Friday, but the reason for that may have been that some internet service providers cache information from websites. This feature would have saved the unavailable websites and prevented access to them. I suppose the moral of this story is that even the industry pros experience catastrophic malfunctions sometimes.