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May 15th, 2008

NSA Goes Offline Due To A DNS Glitch

A server problem at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has knocked the secretive intelligence agency off the Internet. The website was unreachable because of a problem with the NSA’s DNS servers which are used to translate things like the Web addresses typed into machine-readable IP addresses that computers use to find each other on the Internet. The website was unresponsive at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday and continued to be unavailable throughout the day for Internet users. The agency’s two authoritative DNS servers were unreachable also this morning.

Because this DNS information is sometimes cached by Internet service providers, the NSA would still be temporarily reachable by some users, but unless the problem is fixed, NSA servers will be knocked completely offline. That means that e-mail sent to the agency will not be delivered, and in some cases, e-mail being sent by the NSA would not get through.

It seems NSA has made some basic security mistakes with its DNS servers. The NSA should have hosted its two authoritative DNS servers on different machines, so that if a technical glitch knocked one of the servers offline, the other would still be reachable. Compounding the problem is the fact that the DNS servers are hosted on a machine that is also being used as a Web server for the NSA’s National Computer Security Center.

The NSA is responsible for analysis of foreign communications, but it is also charged with helping protect the U.S. government against cyberattacks, so the outage is an embarrassment for the agency. If there was some Apache or Windows vulnerability and hackers controlled that server, they would also owned the DNS server for

According to an NSA spokeswoman, they are aware of the situation and the techs are working on it.

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