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DNS glitch sends surfers to China

Bad directions on the information superhighway

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A networking error resulted in Chilean surfers being redirected to servers in China late last week. A smaller number of Californians were also affected by the snafu, which was inconsistent but persisted for around two days between Wednesday and Friday last week.

Affected web users looking for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were sent to the Chinese equivalents of these sites, or to nothing at all, after taking direction from a misconfigured DNS server. The odd glitch gave surfers an unexpected look at the net behind China's infamous web censorship regime.

Normality was restored after the DNS root server associated with the glitch, maintained by Swedish firm Netnod, was withdrawn from service. It's unclear whether or not the glitch was the cause of the home page of YouTube being unavailable for several hours on Friday.

Netnod maintains one of 13 root DNS servers, named after letters of the alphabet from A to M. The so-called I-Servers maintained by Netnod are located on 40 mirrored machines. Problems occurred when all the machines took directions from a server in China intended to only give local directions.

A statement by Chile's NIC here, via Robert McMillan at Security Blanket, explains the problem in greater depth. ®

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