The US military used an unusual strategy to check for security holes in its networks: it relinquished control of a major Internet source, which is IP addresses or digital identifiers, and handed them over to an unknown company.
On the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, a mysterious Florida-based computer networking company was unveiled that managed a large portion of the previously inactive Internet addresses owned by the Pentagon and that make up a large part of the Internet.
Since then, this network has quadrupled to 175 million addresses, which is about 1/25 the current size of the Internet.
The Internet Protocol address, known in abbreviated form as “IP”, is the digital identifier of any device linked to an information network that works with the Internet protocol package, be it a local network or a network of networks of Internet. For example, in a telephone network, an IP address corresponds to a telephone number.
The Pentagon created these identifiers years ago, but did not use them, making them vulnerable to exploitation by hackers who could have devised a mechanism to find these addresses and use them in their attacks.
Kentik, a network operator, learned that the Department of Defense has given Florida-based startup Global Resource Systems, global resource systems, to take over the Pentagon’s nearly 175 million IP addresses.
The director of the Pentagon’s Digital Defense Service, Brett Goldstein, told The Washington Post that the move was part of a “test” to study and prevent the unauthorized use of IP addresses by the military.
Goldstein said the move would also help identify “potential vulnerabilities” as part of efforts to defend against cyber breaches by global enemies, who frequently infiltrate US networks and sometimes operate through Internet addresses. not used.
However, it is not clear exactly what officials hope to achieve, and the very company that manages the process is shrouded in mystery. It appeared in September 2020 and does not have a public website.
Doug Madhuri, director of Internet analytics at Kentech, believes that data flow directed at IP addresses can help the military gather information on cyber threats.
Whatever the reason, it could be an important step. The military can use so much traffic through their addresses to prevent hostile governments or cybercriminals from stealing inactive IP addresses.
A security source said this also ensures that the United States can manage IP addresses so that they can use them if they wish as traps for criminals, to be used with the Pentagon’s knowledge to trap them in what is known as “honey.” . traps “.
Although this move is strange, it could be significant in light of the penetration of major corporations that work with the Pentagon, state-owned companies like Solar Winds, and other threats to government systems.
What a Pentagon spokesperson could not explain on Saturday was why the Defense Department chose Global Resource Systems, a company with no government contract registration, to manage the IP address space.