The Shrinking of Cyberspace: a Blind Spot of Cyber Policy
On October 4, 2021, Facebook literally disappeared from the Internet. Its applications WhatsApp and Instagram were not to be found either. The reason ? A faulty configuration of the routing system that erased all the routes toward —and between— the company's servers, denying access to all digital services to its employees and nearly 3 billion users. This incident starkly illustrates one of the least discussed cyber resilience and security issues : the shrinking of the Internet.
Our research on data routing reveals a double trend. On the one hand, a fragmentation of cyberspace, mostly along national borders, driven by national security and digital sovereignty concerns. Countries like Iran or Russia, for example, have developed strategies to better control the routes data take and control the borders of their domestic network. On the other hand, we observe a concentration of traffic, driven by market forces and technical concerns, within major platforms (GAFAMs) and major actors of data routing, i.e. tier 1 autonomous systems. This concentration is largely invisible and questions the entire model of resilience of cyberspace, based on the distribution of the network and the multiplicity of routes available to circumvent partial destruction or blockage. This blind spot must be addressed in cyber policy discussions in order to assess the consequences of the shrinking of the Internet and elaborate solutions to favor the decentralization of the network to ensure the resilience, security and stability of cyberspace.