Attackers hit computers that manage Internet traffic

Several of the "root" servers that serve as the backbone of the Internet were targeted by digital miscreants Tuesday in the most significant attack in five years, though there was no major damage.

Attackers apparently took their best shot at the Internet's backbone Tuesday, but failed to do any significant damage.

The onslaught briefly bogged down at least three of the 13 computers that help manage global Web traffic in what some experts believe was the biggest attacks against the Internet in five years.

Early Tuesday, computer researchers scrambled to push back massive amounts of data that threatened to overwhelm Domain Name System (DNS) servers. DNS is used to locate Internet domain names and translate them into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

The attack appears to have been traced back to South Korea, though the hackers apparently tried to cover their tracks. The attack took aim at a company called UltraDNS, which operates servers that process traffic for Web sites ending in .org and some other suffixes, experts said.

"There was what appears to be some form of attack during the night hours here in California and into the morning," John Crain, chief technical officer for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, told The Associated Press (AP). He said an investigation is underway.

"I don't think anybody has the full picture," Crain said. "We're looking at the data."

Crain told the AP that Tuesday's attack was less serious than attacks against the same 13 "root" servers in October 2002 because technology innovations in recent years have increasingly distributed their workloads to other computers around the globe.

Dig deeper on Application Attacks (Buffer Overflows, Cross-Site Scripting)

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