Acronyms and internet
The computer corner
By Charles Miller
Last week’s column on the subject of an acronym and internet alphabet soup left me with more material than would fit into one column. Another very new acronym you may hear used to describe internet issues is “IBR.” As proof of the fact that there are too many acronyms and not enough different letter combinations possible in the alphabet, all you have to do is go to your favorite search engine or one of the web sites specifically dedicated to listing acronyms and learn that there are at least a hundred different definitions for IBR.
One of the many things IBR stands for is “Input Buffer Register,” which can be confused with “Initialization Boot Record.” Both have something to do with computers, as does “Intermediate Bit Rate,” but that is not the one I was looking for either. “Infant Behavior Record” sounds like it has nothing to do with the internet; however, it does seem to accurately describe some of the things that go on there, and “Insert Bugs at Random” is exactly what some consumers accuse computer programmers of doing.
No, the acronym I was looking for this time is “Internet Background Radiation.” IBR, for lack of a better explanation, is like static on a radio or cordless phone. It is an annoyance that gets in the way of what you need to do, and there is no getting rid of it. IBR is billions of junk data packets floating around the net. Their sources are virus-infected computers, bots (robots), poorly-written software, spam-bots, etc. Just like a telemarketer dialing every number in the phone book, a virus-infected computer can sit there dialing up 1,000 IP addresses per minute trying to find another system it can infect. Now that we have the Internet of Things (IoT), there is going to be a lot more IBR originating from network-connected printers to smart thermostats. The destinations of these IBR data packets are for the most part unreachable, and that is the reason why the packets just bounce around the web until they die.
Decades ago, the engineers who designed the Internet Protocol (IP) had the foresight to provide for a graceful way to handle lost data packets. Every TCP/IP data packet has a Time to Live (TTL) value and after a few seconds if that data packet cannot reach its destination, it simply evaporates. IBR thus automatically resolves the problem it creates, yet it still contributes to clogging up the internet’s circuits.
Each of the millions of servers connected to the internet constantly has to monitor incoming traffic and differentiate between legitimate traffic, malicious traffic, and junk (IBR). The unwanted traffic gets bounced or dropped, but just sorting through it all is an electronic burden that requires extra server capacity and bandwidth.
Anyone who cares to see this in action should check out a web site that recently has been the talk of the computer tech world. Point your browser to http://map.ipviking.com/ (no www) and what you will be treated to is a live-action world map of identified cyber attacks of which there are thousands ongoing at any given moment.
The map is populated with the locations of cyber attacks, their origin and target along with a description of what type of attack it is. When a cyber-attack is identified and blocked, which takes just milliseconds, the bounced data packets can become IBR for a few more milliseconds until they expire. Still, some of the cyber-attacks are successful and they just keep coming.
Looking at the map, Oh no! Kazakhstan just zapped Chicago! It looks like somebody in Bolivia is probing email sites in Japan. Mexico just thwarted an attack from Iceland. China is both on the sending and receiving end of hundreds of attacks per second! As one respected tech guru suggested, this web site is best viewed when you have a bag of popcorn and time to enjoy the show.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.