When the number of destinations on the internet surpasses 512,000, users will experience overall internet slowness if they rely on an internet service provider that uses older, affected routers. Shutterstock
Internet outages and slowdowns spiked earlier this week, and more are likely on the way in coming weeks, as the internet grows too big for some network hardware to handle.
According to Vancouver-based internet monitoring firm BGPMon, this past Tuesday, outages were "well above the daily average" and the number of affected systems and addresses was "the highest we've seen in the last 12 months."
The issue arose when the number of routes on the internet temporarily jumped beyond 512,000 or 512K – the maximum that some older networking gear can handle by default.
The cause was a bug at U.S. internet service provider Verizon that dumped 15,000 new internet destinations onto the network for about 10 minutes, said Andree Toonk, founder and lead developer for BGPMon.
"We basically got a small taste of what is possibly about to happen," added Toonk, whose company monitors internet routing for outages and security incidents. "Hopefully this is a wakeup call."
Network analysts such as Toonk estimate the number of routes in the internet — currently hovering around 500,000 — will permanently surpass 512,000 within a month.
"The real test… will start later this week, and will be felt nearly everywhere by the end of next week," estimated Jim Cowie, chief technology officer and co-founder of network performance management firm Renesys, in a blog post Tuesday.
The hardware causing the problem is older routers made by San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco and still used by many smaller networks and regional internet providers, Toonk said.
Nuisance, not threat
According to Cowie, most larger internet service providers "and certainly all of the routers that operate the core infrastructure of the internet" use newer hardware that is unaffected.
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