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Internet 'kill switch' reports highlight need for contingency planning, say Infosecurity Europe organisers

According to Claire Sellick, the event director for the Infosecurity Europe show, what is happening is a rising awareness of the internet's reliance on key physical elements such as main server centres and major routing stations – and how closing down these elements can effectively paralyse a nation's access to the internet.

"The headache that this causes on the security front is, what effect would a shutdown on, for example, of one or more of the US Internet main switches, or the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), have on your organisation, and the answer is that the effects could be very severe", she said..

Sellick argues that a number of UK ISPs rely on peering links with US and European exchanges for a lot of their internet traffic, so if a foreign exchange shutdown were to occur, it could have severe repercussions for some UK hosted websites and company intranet/internet traffic.

The key word here, she says, is 'some', as not all internet hosting and service providers in the UK are equal in terms of their reliance on foreign exchange resources.

For example, she adds, whilst most of the UK's internet traffic is routed via the London Telehouse switches, a growing minority is also being routed via Manchester's MANAP switch, meaning that a serious issue with one switch would mean users of the other switch could continue business as usual.

The Infosecurity Europe event director claims that it all comes down to internet routing diversity, adding that, whilst experts in the US are now realising that there can never be a 'kill switch' for the US internet, they also realise it is still possible to lock down large portions of the North American internet grid.

"And the effects of this could range from catastrophic to a minor inconvenience, depending on which hosting or internet service provider your UK organisation uses, and whether you have IP route diversity systems in place", she said.

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