ORNL’s supercomputing center fends off about a million attacks a day

bigbang2You may remember a 2011 episode of the CBS sitcom “Big Bang Theory” where theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper hacks into a Cray supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for — of all reasons — help in figuring out a card trick. Well that didn’t really happen, of course, but the Oak Ridge lab really does get a lot of attacks on its stable of supercomputers — including Titan, a Cray XK7 system that currently rules the roost of science machines.

According to Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, the number of attacks is about a million a day.

The access to the supercomputer is separate from the internet feed into the ORNL’s general network.

“We have an enclave where we put the supercomputers in this one particular area on the network, and we kind of fence that off from everybody else,” Bland said during a visit to the lab last week.

Not all of those attacks are serious, but they’re treated sort of the same.

“The way we count that is we look at things that are suspicious — somebody probing to see what’s going on in that network, somebody that’s actively trying to attack it,” Bland said. “It’s kind of difficult to tell exactly what’s going on. We don’t try to trace every one of those things back (to their origin). But the number of things that come in every day that’re trying to get into our network — it’s kind of a million a day. And it’s been that way for a long time.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.