Denial of Service: The Epic Dyn Meltdown of 10/21/16

Did you wake up Friday morning with a funny joke bouncing around in your head? Did you think that it was such a good one that you just had to share it with your Twitter followers? When you went to tweet your joke though, you couldn't get access to the app, could you? No worries, you thought to yourself, you could wait for Twitter to load. You'd watch Netlfix in the meantime. But hold up-Netflix wasn't loading either. Whatever, you muttered under your breath. You pulled up Spotify instead, but your music wouldn't play. What the heck?! Why weren't any of these apps working? No, it wasn't your internet connection, it was a cyber attack.

The Cyber Attack Felt Around the World

Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that specializes in monitoring and managing website domains and routing internet traffic was hit by two separate DDoS cyber attacks on the company's DNS servers on October 21, 2016. A DDoS attack, or distributed denial of service attack can be categorized as an attack that targets a system (in this case Dyn servers) and floods the system with such a high amount of data that the system shuts down and goes "offline."

This attack caused popular websites like Twitter, Etsy, Netflix, Reddit and Spotify to go dark. No matter how many times users refreshed their pages they could not gain access to any of their favorite apps. What seemed like a system failure on behalf of those websites (or your internet provider) was the result of a massive cybersecurity breach.

The DDoS cyber attack hit the east coast first at around 7 in the morning. Dyn believed they had resolved the issue later that day, but issues persisted throughout Friday and moved from the east coast of the U.S. to the entirety of the country, and even to Europe. Cybersecurity technologist Bruce Schneier said that "[DDoS attacks] take the form of precisely calibrated attacks [in order] to determine how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down." This means the DDoS attack could have been a test, and the real threat is still yet to come.

What Dyn Done Learned

In an interview with USA Today, Dyn's chief strategy officer Kyle York said that the "[DDoS attack is] a very smart attack. We start to mitigate, they react. It keeps on happening every time. We're learning though." It took 11 hours for Dyn technology officers to remedy the situation. In their recon efforts Dyn's security experts learned that the cybercriminals used Mirai to carry out the attack.

Mirai is a program that allows even the most unskilled of tech users to essentially \"take over\" connected devices and use them to deploy a massive cyber attack, just like the one committed against Dyn. According to USA Today, Mirai uses malware to infiltrate a computer system and then access to the user's entire network, including routers, DVRs and internet-connected cameras. It's still unknown who was behind the attacks. Some have theorized WikiLeaks to be behind the attack, as the organization asked its supporters in a tweet Friday afternoon to halt their DDoS efforts. The attack is now under the investigation of the FBI, and until they share their findings with the public or the culprits show their faces, the public won't know.

What is known is that this attack has the potential of only further exacerbating the fear that the 2016 presidential election will be vulnerable to attack-maybe that was the cybercriminal's intention. Until more is learned, the public can only guess.

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