Pentagon Wrests Back Control of Chunk of Internet Claimed by Mystery Company When Trump Left Office
14:40 GMT 13.09.2021 (Updated: 12:43 GMT 13.04.2023)
When former President Donald Trump exited the White House on January 20th ahead of the incoming POTUS, Democrat Joe Biden, an under-the-radar Florida company reportedly took over control of a large chunk of the Internet previously owned by the Pentagon.
The US Department of Defense has reclaimed control over a chunk of the internet equal to about six percent of the entire web, reported The Washington Post.
The estimated 175 million IP addresses were retrieved from Global Resource Systems LLC, headquartered in Plantation, Florida – a company that seems not to have existed until last September.
The Pentagon’s technical announcement that it was now directing the traffic to its own servers was made on Tuesday, visible mainly to network administrators around the world.
Details of what transpired to have been a pilot programme to detect unspecified “vulnerabilities” and “prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space” were revealed later. Parts of the Internet once managed by Global Resource Systems, said the Pentagon as per The Washington Post, were now being overseen by the Department of Defense Information Network and part of US Cyber Command.
“The Department of Defense has transitioned the advertisement, or announcement, of DoD Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPV4) addresses, previously advertised under Global Resource Systems LLC, to the DoD’s traditional operations and mature network security processes,” the Pentagon was cited as saying.
It was revealed that the IP address space had never been sold or leased to the obscure company, but rather put under its control for the pilot program accrued out by an elite Pentagon unit, known as the Defense Digital Service (DDS), which reports directly to the secretary of defense. The DDS is tasked with tackling diverse emergency problems for the US military, as well as carrying out experimental work, says the publication.
“The Defense Digital Service established a plan to launch the cybersecurity pilot and then transition control of the initiative to DoD partners. Following the DDS pilot, shifting DoD Internet Protocol (IP) advertisement to DoD’s traditional operations and mature network security processes, maintains consistency across the DODIN. This allows for active management of the IP space and ensure the Department has the operational maneuver space necessary to maintain and improve DODIN resiliency,” Russell Goemaere, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said in a statement to The Post.
Brett Goldstein, the DDS’s director, said in a statement that his unit had authorized a “pilot effort” publicizing the IP space owned by the Pentagon. “This pilot will assess, evaluate and prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space. Additionally, this pilot may identify potential vulnerabilities,” Goldstein was cited as saying.
© REUTERS / Alexander DragoThe Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.
The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.
© REUTERS / Alexander Drago
As little clarification is offered regarding what exactly the pilot program was doing, the mystery that permeated the mission remains.
When former President Donald Trump exited the White House on January 20th ahead of incoming POTUS, Democrat Joe Biden, an under-the-radar Florida company took over control of a swathe of the Internet previously owned by the US Defense Department.
The transfer of IP addresses was registered at 11:57 a.m. on Inauguration Day, just three minutes before President Joe Biden took office. Over a period of some three months, Global Resource Systems LLC had added nearly 175 million IP addresses previously owned by the Pentagon to the takeover.
The move was only visible in the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). This messaging system informs Internet companies how to route global traffic. It was there that messages started to inform network administrators that previously dormant Pentagon IP addresses were to be now routed to Global Resource Systems.
The revelations triggered a swathe of theories, ranging from a vast sell-off of IP addresses in the wake of Trump’s exit, to the Pentagon responding to demands to monetise billions of dollars-worth of unused IP address space.
“It is massive. That is the biggest thing in the history of the internet… It's also more than twice the size of the internet space actually used by the Pentagon,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at a network operating company Kentik.
Doug Madory had been tracking the development in the networking world and publishing a blog post. In April the ex-Air Force officer suggested the intriguing program was intended to collect intelligence by rerouting information flows. He underscored that such tactics could allow cyberspies to zoom in on weaknesses in the networks of adversaries.
© AP Photo / Mel EvansA United States Military Academy cadet checks computers at the Cyber Research Center at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
A United States Military Academy cadet checks computers at the Cyber Research Center at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
© AP Photo / Mel Evans
Furthermore, Madory’s recent analysis of traffic via Internet addresses previously controlled by Global Resource Systems shows them still leading to a computer router in Ashburn, Va., that he says is a hub of Internet connections for government agencies and private companies.