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Fiber-Optic Map: A Classified Dissertation? 299

Posted by timothy
from the 'cause-knowledge-is-power dept.
An anonymous reader writes "So you spent all that time researching, compiling and formatting your dissertation ... now what if it became classified information? That's exactly what may end up happening to Sean Gorman's dissertation. He's compiled a detailed map of American companies and the networks that bind it all together, right down to the very last fibre connection. The government wants it classified in the interest of national security. Large financial institutions want it classified/destroyed in the interest of economic security. But terrorists would love for this to be published ... it would make their job so much easier." If Gorman can map the fiber network though, doesn't that mean someone else could do the same? Update: 07/09 13:06 GMT by T : Sorry, I blinked past the story as posted yesterday.
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Fiber-Optic Map: A Classified Dissertation?

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  • Whoops (Score:4, Funny)

    by General Ishmoo (468273) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:02AM (#6399520)
    Seems awfully familiar. Slashdot should look into applying some AI to submissions to see if it shares a high number of key words with a recent submisison.
    • Re:Whoops (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) *
      the on-duty editor should read the e-mail that subscribers send to him about duplicate stories.

      Someone is sleeping.
      • The least they could do is make the Slashdot search halfway decent. License Google's tech or something like all the Universities too (I know, they get it free). The Slashdot search is amazingly poor. Even if the editors do attempt to search, they won't find duplicates.
    • Re:Whoops (Score:2, Interesting)

      by siskbc (598067)
      Seems awfully familiar. Slashdot should look into applying some AI to submissions to see if it shares a high number of key words with a recent submisison.

      That and/or check the URL's. That should actually be easier, since they should either match, or not. No fuzzy checking.

      And, since the guts of the code could be implemented by a first-term CS undergrad, why *hasn't* this been done?

    • Deja vu is just a change in the matrix... They know...
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by dereklam (621517) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:02AM (#6399525)
    So you spent all that time researching, compiling and formatting your dissertation ... now what if it became classified information?

    Once it's posted to /., the dupes will ensure it never goes away!

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:04AM (#6399543)


    You can read more about this here [slashdot.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Quick, everyone. Post as many redundant comments as possible about a story being a dupe. It makes for some great reading.

    Morons.

  • Classified? (Score:2, Funny)

    by shr3k (451065)
    I'm sure technology for detecting duplicate Slashdot stories is classified as well. Slashdot editors want it to stay secret. Trolls would like to see it stay secret as well else they'd have less to troll on about.

    Only die-hard Slashdot readers would like to see such a technology because it would make our lives much easier.
    • I seem to recall that Livejournal uses some sort of dupe-detection on it's feed creation code - basically looks at the links to see if they match. This would at least catch some of them.
  • not suprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linuxislandsucks (461335) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:06AM (#6399552) Homepage Journal
    Not suprising considering that its well known little secrete that half of the scientists at Livermore labs did their disserrtations and had them classifeid on basis of National security..

    In some Universities in US it happens every year regularly..

    • Re:not suprising (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GMontag (42283) <gmontag@noSPAm.guymontag.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:53AM (#6399844) Homepage Journal
      After reading the DT Washington Post article yesterday, I fail to see what the problem in this case is.

      Actually, the problem I see is that it looks more like a scam.

      Every bit of the information this guy is using is publically available, but they have a fancy "security" setup, go through all the motions to have a poor-man's SCIF, they smash old HDDs and degauss them, etc. BUT, every bit of the information they have is available to anybody that wants to dig it up themselves.

      They have taken this information and made maps of it. WOW! Whoopee! Yes, they spent the same amount of time, maybe more, that any modern cartogropher would take to map the same thing.

      The article did not mention that you can get your basic US maps free, in electronic format, from various government agencies. Just check the various OSS GPS projects. Above ground power lines appear there. Link this to a list of power company addresses and vola! a beginners map of the power system. Underground lines, pipes, fiber, etc all appear on some sort of map someplace.

      Want to add wireless points to the mix? Go to the wardriver websites and add their maps to yours. Poof! Another infrastructure layer!

      Want to add the "command structure"? Go get that GIA project (or whatever it is called) that was announced the other day, add that layer, TA DA! more crap on your map!

      How this even counts as something to get a degree in is beyond me. Yes, it is very useful in general but it is nothing ground breaking, it is basic, classic mapmaking and he uses a computer instead of an offset press.
      • Re:not suprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @10:59AM (#6400301)
        Yea, just like how building the first atomic pile was simple. Why hand out Ph.Ds for that?

        Stack a bunch of graphite, throw in some uranium and graphite rods with some controls to raise and lower then and vola! an atomic pile.

        And the first antibiotics...bread mold in a dish...

        Often a breakthrough simply comes from someone organizing what has been out there for years.
        • Yea, just like how building the first atomic pile was simple. Why hand out Ph.Ds for that?

          Because no one had ever done it before successfully. Maps, however have been around for quite some time. An infrastructure map is hardly revolutionary or unprecedented.

          • Re:not suprising (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Wyatt Earp (1029)
            Alot of academic research isn't revolutionary or unprecedented. I see that every time I walk past the Geology department and glance at some of the research projects on the wall.

            A earthquake danger chart for the Portland OR metro area is just a map and other data but it's a research project. Low temprature rock formations of Eastern Oregon aren't that revolutionary or unprecedented.

            From the articles I've read on this guy and this subject he is the first one to put it all togeather in one place, sounds unpr
      • Re:not suprising (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ronin Developer (67677) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:34AM (#6400583)
        I once asked the very same question since, as a former naval officer, I'd see classified material that often cited public references. I asked the question during one of my training sessions and received a very direct answer.

        It isn't the fact the material is publicly available; It's how this information is assembled and the determinations/conclusions that makes it classified.

        The classification level, "confidential", "secret", "top secret", "top secret compartmented", etc, is determined based upon the impact this information could have on national interests or an ongoing operation.

      • by nano-second (54714) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @12:03PM (#6400782)
        This is exactly the sort of thing that real world spies do. They don't generally get tuxedo's and cool gadgets ... they get papers and magazines and trade publications and they spend their time clipping things out and cross referencing. It has long been known that you can find out secrets by putting together lots of public information.
      • The point that you're missing is that this isn't just a collection of data that is publically accessible. It is also automatic analysis of critical infrastructure points. It's not just a map, it's a map that already shows you "Strike here, cause we've already figured out that striking here will cause major damage!"

        Like the "You are Here" arrow on maps in malls. You don't even have to study the map, you just look at the big red arrow to know where you are.

        • No, I am not missing that at all.

          All of the folks that think any joe-blow that can read a map and use a mapping program *can't* do the same thing are missing the point.

          My gosh, I will almost bet that there are functions built into mapping software that will hilite characteristics that cross each other from various overlays, like powerlines, fiber, a gas line and a river, etc.
      • Re:not suprising (Score:2, Insightful)

        by fubar1971 (641721)
        They have taken this information and made maps of it. WOW! Whoopee!

        So apparently you missed the part in the Washington Post that states...

        Using mathematical formulas, he probes for critical links, trying to answer the question "If I were Osama bin Laden, where would I want to attack?"

        What he has done is to probe and test the layers of infrastructure for weakness and try to determine the econominc impact if those weaknesses were to be exploited. Any boob can use GIS software to layer all of the diff
        • Using mathematical formulas, he probes for critical links, trying to answer the question "If I were Osama bin Laden, where would I want to attack?"

          Bin Laden wants to KILL PEOPLE. He doesn't care about interrupting your porn download, or even bank transactions. The whole "hacker terrorist" hysteria of this story is just garbage. The real motives are hinted at in the news story -- executives want the fragility of their systems kept secret because it's embarrassing.

          • Re:not suprising (Score:3, Insightful)

            by fubar1971 (641721)
            Bin Laden wants to KILL PEOPLE

            Bin Laden does not want to kill people, what he wants is to destroy any threat to Islamic beliefs that he may perceive. Since he sees the USA (and other nations)as a threat to Islam, he has declared jihad against this country. The Islamic faith is against killing just like any other religion, but also like any other religion, killing can/is rationalized for the perceived greater good of the religous community and beliefs. So when you make an assinine statement like Bin Lad
      • Thesis not Data (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin S. (98249)
        If you read the article carefully you will find it is not the publicly accessible data that is 'secret'. It is the thesis and associated software that analyses the data to find the most vulnerable points of the various networks that is 'secret'. Even so, the article leaks enough information about this this thesis to judge that it is based on the application of weighted graph theory.

        What I found interesting is that a 30 year old CS theory is leading edge Cartography.

      • Re:not suprising (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cluckshot (658931)

        I really think that this security stuff is getting out of hand. Suppose a man with a backhoe just digs by accident. Its a daily occurance. Nobody except the liablity issues for the digger has any fit over it because there are so many redundant channels for data.

        This is classic foolishness to classify such a map. The Internet was invented out of US DOD efforts to make communications web linked to make destruction of single or many routes irrelevant.

        Terrorists attacking key nodes at the 50 top sites at

    • When an company or gov't entity hides or covers up their own sensitive information, I could see this being classification.

      However, when they make a private individual or entity cover up such information, wouldn't it better be called "supression", "oppression", or something similar?

      How can they make a private indivual cover up information not gained from already-classified sources?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:08AM (#6399572)
    Not the first time it has happened. It is only the latest example. I had my thesis classified (1972) - to this day I still can't distribute the damn thing. I did my work on image enhancements through atmospheric perturbations. Being an amateur astronomer I wanted to be able to see images more clearly and the subject seemed natural for my thesis. In under a year I found it classified. Little did I realize what it was going to be used for.
    • by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal@@@3l337...org> on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:25AM (#6399676) Homepage
      Get back in the basement, Lazlo [imdb.com]!
    • incognito (Score:5, Funny)

      by siskbc (598067) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:58AM (#6399871) Homepage
      Not the first time it has happened. It is only the latest example. I had my thesis classified (1972) - to this day I still can't distribute the damn thing. I did my work on image enhancements through atmospheric perturbations. Being an amateur astronomer I wanted to be able to see images more clearly and the subject seemed natural for my thesis. In under a year I found it classified. Little did I realize what it was going to be used for.

      Is your identity classified too, AC? ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I had a similarish experience. My honours thesis (mechanical engineering) was not classified, but confidential. The work I did was looking into quantifying losses in a mineral extraction and purification process. The copy of my thesis in the public domain is highly edited (to the point of being essentially useless). Nobody except the company has a copy of the full thesis ... well, OK, I'll admit I have an encrypted version just for my own posterity. All of my examiners had to sign confidentiality agreements
      • The work I did was looking into quantifying losses in a mineral extraction and purification process.

        and

        I can't honestly see why the information was confidential, although I could see that it might have stock market influences

        It probably has something to do with the costs associated with uranium enrichment projects, if I were to hazard a guess. Maybe it's valuable to someone who wants to figure out how much a program would cost?

    • by securitas (411694) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @12:44PM (#6401040) Homepage Journal


      I'm not going to repeat my comments from yesterday's topic here, but instead invite you to read my thoughts on Defending disserations and visionaries [slashdot.org] and Part 2 of the same [slashdot.org]. Please read both links since they are part of the same post (split due to a mis-clicked Submit instead of Preview button).

      I had my thesis classified (1972) - to this day I still can't distribute the damn thing.

      The question I have for you is are you cleared to read your own disseration? You wrote it, but have you received government clearance to access your thesis. I'm also curious which department determined it should be classified. The NRO?

      The other issue in Sean Gorman's case that is slightly different from yours is that your thesis was (presumably) classified after it was published since you haven't mentioned anything about not receiving your degree. Sean Gorman is faced with being denied his degree because his work has been classified before he can complete his disseration.

  • by irving47 (73147) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:09AM (#6399580) Homepage
    Aren't the government and big business pretty much stuck asking him to be 'patriotic' about the whole thing? Isn't it a pointless argument unless he's taken a security oath of some sort?
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:10AM (#6399590)
    If Gorman can map the fiber network though, doesn't that mean someone else could do the same?

    And this is exactly why his work must be classified or destroyed. Remember, kids, most recent laws are here not to prevent the bad guys from doing something (by deffinition, they are bad and thus expected to break those laws), but to prevent the average citizen from doing something.

    • Secrecy is a double-edged sword. If it's public knowledge that a certain building contains critical infrastructure, then the public will be watchful of it. Maybe what we should do is keep the sensitive info away from the military so guys like Tim McVeigh can't get ahold of it.

      The thing that really gets my goat is the Bush administration's extreme knee-jerk reaction to anything they see as even a slight risk. And they do it in the name of post-9/11 security (and all that is holy) when the fact of the matt
      • You seem to assume post-9/11 security is about prevention of the recurrance of the exact 9/11 events.

        That seems silly, as closed cockpit doors, air patrols, etc wouldn't protect you from any other form of terrorist attack.
  • Reminds me of... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PS-SCUD (601089) <peternormanscott ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:14AM (#6399613) Journal
    When John A. Phillips designed an A-Bomb using unclassified info for is dissertation at Princeton.
    • When John A. Phillips designed an A-Bomb using unclassified info for is dissertation at Princeton.

      For those that are interested, there was a book published about the entire incident. Mushroom: The Story of the A-Bomb Kid. It's out of print, but you can locate used copies through Amazon [amazon.com] or Abebooks [abebooks.com].

      From this source [covehurst.net] I located the jacket text. Enjoy.

      John Aristotle Phillips is the Princeton student who became world-famous when he designed an atomic bomb both to demonstrate the dangers of the proliferati

  • by GypC (7592)

    Let's get the story on all the major news channels!

    I sure hope no terrorists get wind of this and get any ideas about blowing up fiber optic trunks... that would be bad.

  • by SleezyG (466461) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:22AM (#6399653)
    Having just finished an advanced degree in Computer Engineering, I feel that I may have a little more experience than Mr. Gorman in the matter of PhD-worthy work. I'd like to point out that a computer program, whether in source or binary form, is not enough to earn a PhD. A dissertation, to earn one's PhD, is a written work that documents the research and describes the methodologies used to arrive at the final product (the fiber map program, in this case). Often, when the product is a computer program, the source is included as an appendix.

    Considering that it's the data in the program that is sensitive and was time-consuming to compile, the algorithms themselves are pretty harmless. Why not call his dissertation "A Method for Mapping National-Scale Fiber Optic Networks," get his degree, feed the source to his dog, and get a job with the NSA?
    • by Onanismous Coward (688065) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:31AM (#6399718)
      It is easy enough for anybody to find out anything that they want about the US, but it is not due to ease of access. It is that we are a hetergenous society. Anybody can move easily here and simply look. This article, and some of people act like this info is difficult to obtain. It isn't. Want to locate fiber optics? Follow the rail system, the high tension power lines, and the highways. The installation involved obtaining ROWs which were almost always easier to follow other ROWs. As to finding out a set of central offices, simply get a job at a rboc or a power company. Once inside the company, the info is freely available.
      For those who think this is bad, look at the old soviet union. Even for all their hard security (which seems to be the direction that we are headed), we knew most of their soft spots. So even if we truely implement the same society that Soviet Union had, we would still be a main target. Any time you have fixed assets, it is a target. period.
      • Want to locate fiber optics? Follow the rail system, the high tension power lines, and the highways.

        Yep. And for any other location, dial up the number on the "call before you dig" sign and you can sometimes even get a telco to send you a fairly detailed map.

    • You think he and his advisors haven't already discussed this? Remember, these comments are all based upon articles in on-line press - not an "Ask Slashdot" from the fellow himself.
    • Gorman's fine. With press coverage like that, he'll never want for a job. I'm personally much more concerned with the classification of such necessarily public data and the government's amazing zeal to deter the "potential terrorist activity" at any cost to Americans. Put things like this next to the USA-PATRIOT Act, and things get even scarier than they were before.
    • feed the source to his dog, and get a job with the NSA?

      The last thing the world needs is an AIBO that learns about our vulnerabilities. Isn't this how the whole Terminator mess got started?
  • by tarsi210 (70325) * <{moc.ellarpnahtan} {ta} {nahtan}> on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:23AM (#6399662) Homepage Journal
    Uhm....aren't subscribers supposed to help catch these things? I mean, after all, you get to see the damned article BEFORE it's published and if you see problems, email daddypants@slashdot.org [mailto]. Or are there just not enough people awake when the stories are previewed to catch them? Just a thought. No, it's not our responsibility to be editors, but a little help couldn't hurt anything.
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) * on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @10:15AM (#6399984)
      No, it's not our responsibility to be editors, but a little help couldn't hurt anything.

      Spoken with the youthful zeal of a subscriber whose never reported an egregious error to daddypants pre-publication, only to be ignored, and see a good thirty percent of the subsequent posts wail on off-topic about the [avoidable] error.

      I've reached the conclusion that the /. editors are actually smarter than all of us, and knowingly post the dupes and wacky errors because we will all go on and on posting and talking about it anyway, like a bad Seinfeld episode, while they rack up pageviews because of, and not despite, their lack of effort.

      timothy: "Hey, Rob, I was about to release this when that Robot guy send me this; he says 'Architecting' is not a verb. We use it that way in the subject of the release."

      cmdr_taco: He's right. It's not. Drives me crazy when I hear people use it that way, too."

      timothy: "So... change it....?"

      cmdr_taco: "NO! Whaddyou, kidding? They'll go wacky bat-shit with this one. Good for a hundred Grammar-Nazi posts, easily. Then they'll be some poor ex-dot-com-er who'll try to say it *is* a word, and they'll all pile on for another thirty or fifty, at least."

      timothy: "Wow! 150 posts, God-knows how many pageviews, just because we *don't* expend any effort to correct something? That's amazing..."

      cmdr_taco: "You've a lot to learn about building a Web Community, young padawan..."
      • Kinda makes me wonder if Taco and Timothy are actually the most skilled trolls around. They're casting nets, and getting 150 replies. :)

        -Ab
        • That's the irony of Slashdot. You get modded down for trollish posts, but a huge number of the stories are trolls too. And why not? As the parent said, trolls bring in the pageviews for Slashdot. There is probably nothing better for them, revenue speaking, than a huge flamewar.
        • Kinda makes me wonder if Taco and Timothy are actually the most skilled trolls around.

          I stopped wondering that years ago. Slashdot in general, and the YRO section in particular, is one big trollfest. Enjoy!

  • Hopefully ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Onanismous Coward (688065) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:29AM (#6399704)
    He's able to leverage the data so that he can see gains (I'm thinking an entire career) while the folks that have lots to lose (banks, utilities, transportation, US gov) pay for him to help show their achilies heels and bottlenecks. If 25 telcos happen to be sharing the same 'pipe' of fibre, it may not be a terrorist that breaks that connection... regardless of who severs that line, it ain't good for the telcos -- and the telcos should be using his data to reduce risks. Insurance companies and actuaries for corporations and governments love this kind of stuff, as do operations research people. Tell me how much it'll cost to reduce risk to this level, or: I have $10,000,000 -- how can I spend it to ensure that the worst case scenario isn't as bad. Hopefully the information doesn't become classified; hopefully, it's used over the next few years to sure up the bottlenecks and other weak points, making the infrastructure far more robust in the following years.
  • by dasuridai (606603)
    The article conspicuously lacks any link to the website of John Young, although it references it in the article. So the two that I found are here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org].
  • by femto (459605) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:31AM (#6399715) Homepage
    I would like to see a similar map for Australia. Unlike the US, it has about a dozen large cities with hardly anything in between (apologies to all those outback towns).

    I reckon the continent is spanned by a couple of (a few if you're lucky) fibre optic cables. Chances are you don't even need a map to find them. Just follow the line of solar powered repeaters, one of the handful of roads or the single railway line. Alternatively, just look for the line of brightly coloured posts marking the cables, in an attempt to stop people accidentally digging them up!

    Take your ditch digger into a remote area, carve a 100 metre ditch perpendicular to the road and bingo, one severed optical fibre cable.

    • by Craigj0 (10745)
      I remeber the outrage that by taking out one telephone exchange you could sever the east and west coasts of Australia during the olypics. And IIRC taking out another 4 centres would disconnect Australia from the world.
      • I remeber the outrage that by taking out one telephone exchange you could sever the east and west coasts of Australia during the olypics. And IIRC taking out another 4 centres would disconnect Australia from the world.

        It's already happened to us. In Canada, a fire in a Bell exchange (in Toronto) cut off the telephones for most of the eastern portion of the whole country. It was about 4 years ago, IIRC, and everyone had to use cell phones for a while. Except then, the cell networks got overloaded too :)
  • Dupe.. but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A point i'd like to make:

    I'd much rather America's infrastructure was resilient, so that it was near-unbreakable even when the details are known, like a good crypto algo, than to have government and financial institutions cowering behind the false security of secrecy.

    The report should be published, along with weekly updates!

  • by Mikey-San (582838) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:36AM (#6399740) Homepage Journal
    The majority of Slashdotters, I imagine, are not subscribers, so I'm not directing this toward those of you who are. You guys are paying for duplicate stories (not that major papers don't do this, too, but still). That kinda sucks, and I can understand why you'd be upset.

    But to everyone else bitching to hell and back about duplicate posts (in redundant, duplicate posts to begin with), I say:

    Big. Freaking. Deal.

    If you don't like it sooooo much--if you have such a problem with the content of Slashdot--STOP READING SLASHDOT. You're not paying anything, you're not forced to read any of the sections, and no one here owes you anything.

    I don't understand why people who are pissed off so much by typos and accidental duplicate story posts (it's not like it's done on purpose) would continue coming here just to bitch about it in the comment threads. Oh, wait, this is /Slashdot/ ...
    • For what it's worth, the description and headline on this posting were far better than yesterday's. I hardly glanced at yesterday's post (in fact, I couldn't remember it at all, and had to follow Timothy's 'apology' link), but this one really caught my eye.

      Maybe instead of complaining that this one is a dupe, we should be complaining that yesterday's headline and description were lacklustre and ignorable.
    • Kinda reminds me of the "pro-war hillbillies" on Southpark --

      "If you don't like it, then get out!"

    • If you don't like it sooooo much--if you have such a problem with the content of Slashdot--STOP READING SLASHDOT. You're not paying anything, you're not forced to read any of the sections, and no one here owes you anything.

      I don't understand why people who are pissed off so much by typos and accidental duplicate story posts (it's not like it's done on purpose) would continue coming here just to bitch about it in the comment threads. Oh, wait, this is /Slashdot/ ...

      You do understand that many of us "pissed

    • ... pissed off so much by typos and accidental duplicate ...

      Pissed off? I find it funny. Plus, if we were to keep quiet on such things, then such things would go un-noticed. Some people like to be informed!

      Read "Dupe!" as "See previous for more info." Say thanks, have a laugh, but if you get so "pissed off" about these posts, then read something more censored and leave Slashdot alone.

  • Here in Ohio we had a backhoe hit one of UUnet's main fiber backbone knocking out service for most of the state for 3 hours.

    I think that his thesis should be published and given to all the fine backhoe operators out there who thought that "that cable didn't look it was being used".

    Just your average farmer.

    • Ah yes, fiber seeking backhoes.

      In the NE corridor you have to worry about trains. Economies of cheapness^H^H^H^H^H^H^ efficiency, most of our fiber runs side by side with rail lines. One firy train wreck in Baltimore knocked out a good chunk of UUnet between DC and New York.

      I love being on AT&T's backbone on days like that.

  • I am tried of the debate of whether to hassle Gorman.

    Why isn't anyone stepping up to complain about the lies and misinformation of building and being sold a resilent internet? I mean, that was a goal of the original ARPAnet, we know how to do it. I've been told by all the big name backbones that they offer high relability, resilent networking, which appears to be a lie about their product.

    I want the real problem fix, fix the networking!, build a truely resilent network backbone.
  • The law was written the way it was to keep the people in government from abusing its power, and it was done with great insite and forthought. It is not a principal that changes with the times, it is what should be a universal right. While the world is changing such that its easier for the public to use Free Speech in a dangerous way, its also changing such that abusers in government can abuse censorship more easily. If the govermnet can just say: "Sorry, what you are saying threatens national security" then
  • Tom Clancy, too (Score:2, Informative)

    by jazman_777 (44742)
    If Gorman can map the fiber network though, doesn't that mean someone else could do the same?

    I worked once with a guy who had worked in anti-sub warfare in the USN. He said Clancy was onto all sorts of classified stuff (_and_ a lot of baloney, too). Seems he was able to piece together a number of unclassified bits into a (synergistically) classified piece.

    • I seem to recall the navy visited the set of the Hunt for Red October and had them change a bunch of values on the gauges.

      Hollywood (for all its quirks) seems to stumble on bits and pieces too.

  • by jdhouse4 (14603) * on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:47AM (#6399806) Homepage
    Having been a graduate student in a previous life (earned a MS in aerospace engineer), it is possible for someone to replicate Gorman's work. However, unlike Gorman, that person will be operating in an environment where information will not flow so easially as it perhaps did to Gorman. Technically, everything about everything is on public record. Fishing it out is another matter. And by the time you're finished, the network has likely changed enough that a good part of your work is then invalidated. Gorman was doing this as his graduate research, meaning he probably spent most of his day working on this under his graduate research funding.

    So, now anyone wanting to replicate Gorman's work will need to take the next 4-6 years off, have an advisor who will keep you from going down dead ends as Gorman's advisor probably did, get paid by someone (Mr. Bin Laden?) during that time, work in a newly, informational hostile environment, and keep updating your map even as you map new areas. Not a piece of cake.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Spurious assumption. Here's the differences:

      1. We know this can already be done, so it's now an implementation problem.
      2. "newly information hostile environment"? All I'm reading here is that this project is being stifled, not that the sources it draws on are. Also, if they're available in the USA, they're almost certainly available outside the USA. Go ahead, firewall .com and .org from the rest of the world.
      3. If Gorman is a "typical grad student", he probably worked two hours a day on this, tops, and spen
  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:54AM (#6399849) Homepage
    I have asked this question a number of times, but I am still confused.

    The Internet was designed to be durable. It is built with many points of failure and it is supposed to function even with many of those points disabled.

    Why is it then that a backhoe operator in California can knock out Internet access or at least cripple traffic for the entire country?

    Is it simply that there is not enough redundancy to make this possible? If that is the case, forget about supressing research like Gorman's and increase the infrastructure.

    Regrettably, I must agree that spilling this information out into the public domain is not the best. Computer security concerns should be publicized, but physical security issues should not. They differ insofar as the means of resolving security issues. If some operating system has a vulnerability, it is repaired once and the patch gets disseminated to all affected systems. You cannot simply build a stronger door and pass that door around to all affected sites.

    Nevertheless, we should make efforts to nullify the vulnerability so that when this information becomes public, the point is moot and a few bombs destroying some fiber will do nothing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      http://www.computerworld.com/networkingtopics/netw orking/story/0,10801,75539,00.html [computerworld.com]

      Scale free networks. A network that fits this characteristic can be significantly degraded by removing well-connected nodes.
    • The internet IS redundent - on the world-wide level. We could wipe whole cities off the map and the internet would still function. Of course, most folks around the affected area would still be SOL (on several levels, actually.)
    • by Detritus (11846)
      Fast, Cheap, Reliable. Pick two.

      It takes time, money and engineering to build a reliable network. Back in the days of the Bell System, a great deal of effort was expended in improving the reliability of the hardware and the network. There were redundant paths, load balancing and excess capacity built into the network. Huge amounts of money were spent on making electronic switching systems, and the associated software, extremely reliable.

      The Bell monopoly is gone. So are the economic conditions that made

    • Another factor nobody has mentioned is the continuing growth of the Internet to pace the size of the network.

      Redundency in the network is of no value if losing one link raises the traffic far enough on the redundent paths to lock them up solid.

      I'm in Lansing, MI (middle of the lower part of the state), and we've had our primary link to Chicago severed before. Our packets were re-routed through northern MI, but the links are much, much slower then the primary link to Chicago. Packets got through, but forge
  • by acorn (203153) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:54AM (#6399850)
    The most puzzling aspect of this story is that the job of mapping the US internet is sufficient to earn a Ph.D. Of course, it is possible that there are aspects of the author's thesis that go beyond what is advertised above.

    I admit that this author is not alone--in the CS department where I work, "experimental" Ph.D. theses featuring poorly designed experiments or no scientific work at all (which appears to be the case above) are a constant problem.

    Perhaps this is an accident of the youth of the field.
  • by kmilani2134 (652045) * on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @09:57AM (#6399865) Homepage
    As other posters have pointed out, secrecy is not going to help with security especially since it would be just as easy for an adversary to use the same sources to reconstruct the work.

    Instead, the work should be used to increase our knowledge of our infrastructure so that we can know our own weaknesses. If we are aware of our weaknesses, we can then do something to protect them.

    There are probably many legitimate applications that can be built using this knowledge. For instance, my company is launching a Web service which may someday have millions of users worldwide. It would be very nice to be able to analyze our nation's infrastructure for the most secure and reliable places to co-lo our servers.

  • That's okay... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ryanvm (247662) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @10:13AM (#6399965)
    Sorry, I blinked past the story as posted yesterday.

    That's okay - the writeup was much better this time.
  • by Archon-X (264195) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @10:33AM (#6400119)
    ..time to classify think geek's internet map! [thinkgeek.com]

    Terrorist training: "Attack the purple bit..no no the one above the orange spidery bit..

  • Since when.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shatfield (199969) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:01AM (#6400316)
    Since when did we become a nation of wimps? If it were up to our current government, the biology of the human body would be suppressed, so that "terrorists" wouldn't know where to shoot us in order to kill us. Just like this case - if we can figure it out, so can they. This information is just like any other information -- it can be used for good or evil. Obviously there is information that is more pertinent than other information, the size of Jenna Bush's bra, for instance, would be considered by most to be unimportant. How that information was obtained; however, would be a little more important. In what way is our government censoring this information any different than what the Chinese government does? Perhaps he should release this onto Freenet [freenetproject.org]. It would finally validate what Ian Clarke has been saying for the last few years. Censorship must be eliminated if we are to have a democratic society.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:04AM (#6400333) Homepage
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH [online-literature.com]
  • by Samir Gupta (623651) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:11AM (#6400384) Homepage
    It's likely he used the traceroute utility, and correlated hostnames with domain name records, combined that with geolocation systems.

    Not too novel or ingenious, just tedious. Will the US ban traceroute now?
  • by openbear (231388) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:21AM (#6400470)
    This quote really disturbs me ...

    "He should turn it in to his professor, get his grade -- and then they both should burn it," said Richard Clarke, who until recently was the White House cyberterrorism chief.

    Knowledge should be used to empower. Knowledge should be passed along from generation to generation. It is our knowledge that makes this (or any country) worthy of defending.

    How about finding ways to better secure our national infrastructure instead of "persecuting" researchers. What's next? The Bush administration will outlawing thinking?

    Maybe I am just overreacting, but the above quote from this article reminds me of The Burning of the Library of Alexandria [ehistory.com].
    • How about finding ways to better secure our national infrastructure instead of "persecuting" researchers. What's next? The Bush administration will outlawing thinking?


      Welcome to 1984, my friend. I've been saying it and saying it until I'm blue in the face... the only thing Orwell was wrong about was the year... the world (well, the USA at least) *is* evolving towards something like what he described...

      The sad thing is, there's still time to do something about it... but the problem is, most Americans ar
  • by Mac Degger (576336) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:26AM (#6400509) Journal
    Does not work.

    This is yet another case of groups wanting to keep the public dumb, supposedly for security. But what they seem to forget is that that way lies...no, that just IS a fascist cencorship.

    Not only is it useless (as the blurb states, what has been done once can be done again), but the map itself can be very usefull for purposes of statistical analysis, extrapolation, troubleshooting, and it also just makes a cool map :)

    An analogy would be classifying a map of all the universities in a country. Trust me, blow them up (and the students/prof's in them, of course), and that country will be in deep shit in a year's time, even more so than blowing up the government/some financial centre/some computers.
  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:27AM (#6400520) Journal
    But terrorists would love for this to be published ... it would make their job so much easier

    yes, isnt their *just a little* paranoia in that statement? What is more likely, that A) the World-trade-center event was rather isolated and abhorent or B) There are vast numbers of Evil Terrorists(tm) plotting from within America just waiting -- literally foaming at the mouth in breathless anticipation -- of this kind of information in order to plot their Next Terrorist Attack(tm).

    Really, you yanks need to get out more. The rest of the world deals with these kinds of criminals ALL THE TIME(!) and you dont see them in a paranoid funk do you? Your wife/mother/daughter is more likely to be raped and killed by your husband/father/son than they are to die bc of the Next Terrorist Attack(tm). You gonna lock up anyone who looks cross-eyed?

    I understand the world trade center was a very tragic and emotional event, but really -- CALM THE HELL down and start to think rationally again. Your government/military has your nation whipped in such a lather that *YOU* are *really* a greater threat to World Peace than any Evil Terrorist(tm).
    It was not OK for the US to invade Afghanistan because they cant/wont extradite osama binladen*. It was not OK for the US to invade Iraq because they didnt like sadam hussein*. It will not be OK the next time the US decides to invade %somewhere%.

    *setting up these straw-men, and demonizing them was a propaganda tactic meant to shift the public's views of these events... instead of understanding the events as Germany->Poland style invasions, justifying them as "go after this Real Evil Dude(tm)" is pretty straight-forward propaganda... the fictional rationale is irrelvant really. The bottom line is that the USA just invaded/occupied two nations in the last few years. These subtleties may be lost on the domestic audience, but the rest of the world A) doesnt buy it and B) sees the USA as a rogue nation... but I digress.

    PS to the Brits amoungst us; please toss Blair out of office for this misdead - but dont elect the god-darn conservatives in his place, they will only be worse.
    • While your at it allwasy remember that the USA's freedom was one by a group of terrorists there is no real line between terrorist and freedom fighter.

      As to invasion yup we did and will probably do it again. Personaly I see this as the right of any soverign nation to declare war and invade another if they are not doing what they want them to this is how politics used to get done. It all boils down to if you beleive that ultimatly the people have power or some body of law has power. The UN in a lot of way
  • The implications, however, in the post-Sept. 11 world, were enough to knock the wind out of John M. Derrick Jr., chairman of the board of Pepco Holdings Inc., which provides power to 1.8 million customers. When a reporter showed him sample pages of Gorman's findings, he exhaled sharply.

    "This is why CEOs of major power companies don't sleep well these days," Derrick said, flattening the pages with his fist. "Why in the world have we been so stupid as a country to have all this information in the public dom

    • Re:This part (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DavittJPotter (160113)
      What's more frightening is that this man is so adamant about taking information away from his customers and shareholders. This information has been public domain for several years - long enough for Mr. Gorman to do his research. If some so-called terrorist wanted to do some damage, the information is there. I doubt your ShadowyFigure(TM) will say, "Damn! Now that this is all correlated, I have the perfect spot to plan my attack!" Right. From the terrorist angle, hitting the World Trade Center was a hi
  • -let me assure you, the maps you are able to get your hands on are hardly EVER good enough to actually use.

    I worked at a company that takes paper maps of major telcom companies' (ie. AT&T, ComCast) fiber runs, and puts them in a proprietary computerized form. Some of the maps, only one person at the telcom regional office knows what the various symbols mean, and/or what parts or the run do/do not actually follow the mapped routes.

    Record keeping during the 'boom' of fiber optic installation was generall

  • I teach part time at a local University and I'm currently working with six Masters students on their dissertations.

    They started in January and will hand in by August 15th. After I grade - and I know their work intimately since I approved topics and see drafts every six weeks or so - the Chairwoman of the department will grade them as well and then that's it. They're done.

    So who the hell raises the bell when a dissertation crosses the line? I teach Econometrics so I know National Security implications

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