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512k routing bug might kill the internet, but probably won't

Too much information make router go bang
Thu Aug 14 2014, 10:55

THE INTERNET, the popular feline-based online entertainment service, has started to fail as the weight of traffic begins to bite older equipment.

Older routers were designed to keep a maximum of 512,000 (512k) updates to routing tables in the cache memory at any given time. Yesterday, that 512k figure was exceeded, causing many routers to either stop functioning, reboot, or plead for help from their human servants.

Depending on your point of view, this is either a slight glitch that will right itself shortly, or threatens the end of the internet. We've decided to plump for somewhere in between those two - it's another millenium bug that we can hope will turn out to be a tempest in a teacup.

Cisco has been keen to remind customers that it warned in May that this day was coming when it told customers about what models of its equipment are likely to experience problems and what workarounds are available.

However, it did reassure customers, saying, "The possibility of TCAM resource exhaustion at 512k routes is a known issue that we all know has been coming for some time. There is no related security vulnerability, and it cannot be easily triggered by a remote, untrusted user."

So there's no opportunity for hacking villains in the 512k routing table entries limit, then.

Although neither Lastpass nor eBay, two websites that suffered major outages yesterday, have admitted any connection with "512k Day", as the Twitterati are calling it, and their problems, it seems likely that it is no coincidence.

As to what happens now, with the interminably slow take-up of the IPv6 standard in industry, the 512k limit is likely to be tripped repeatedly. The worrying thing is that no one is quite sure how big a deal it actually is yet. Like the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, the internet service industry seems to be sitting back, arms folded, and watching the fun with morbid curiosity.

Meanwhile, expect a few more days of intermittent faults with some high profile websites as IT administrators rake in overtime pay installing the configuration workarounds and righting routers that have fallen over. Either that, or The INQUIRER will be moving to become a print publication. µ


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