A security expert has warned that a group of hackers is attempting to see if it’s possible to bring down the internet completely.

According to Bruce Schneier writing in a blog post, hacker collectives, most likely to have been sanctioned by either China or Russia, is testing the defences of companies that run critical parts of the Internet.

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“Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services… What can we do about this? Nothing, really. We don’t know where the attacks come from.”

The attacks on crucial structural links of the internet have been steadily increasing over time, and are consistently trying to find a weak point they can breach in order to try and bring it down.

“We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses,” writes Schneier. “These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they’re used to seeing. They last longer. They’re more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.”

These type of attacks, according to Schneier, are uncharacteristic behaviour of normal hackers. Instead, they do resemble the core profiling activity of basic infrastructure that is commonly seen in espionage and intelligence gathering.

“It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.”

Schneier states that at the end of the day, the US National Security Agency, (NSA) is probably more than aware of who the hackers are, and where they come from, but without creating an international incident, there’s probably not much anyone can do about it.

The important thing, Schneier says, is that someone somewhere is trying to take down the internet, and that people should know about it.