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Major websites disrupted across US following massive cyber attack

22 October 2016 10:25

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A US company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure says it has come under a cyber attack, making major websites inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States.

Dyn, a company that acts as a switchboard for internet traffic, said Friday it began experiencing a so-called distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, just after 7 am.

A DDoS, occurs when hackers flood the servers with so much junk traffic that they freeze up. Such attacks are common, but there is evidence that they are becoming more sophisticated, more powerful and increasingly aimed at internet infrastructure providers.

Internet users reported about sporadic problems reaching several websites, including The New York Times, Netflix, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud, Spotify and Twitter.

Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the US East Coast, but spread westward in three waves towards the evening.

The cyber attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like home routers, cameras and baby monitors that have been infected, without their owners’ knowledge, Dyn said.

Hackers used software that allows them to command the internet-connected devices to flood a target with overwhelming traffic.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York.

“The number and types of attacks, the duration of attacks and the complexity of these attacks are all on the rise,” he said.

The US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said they were investigating the incident and all potential causes, including criminal activity and a nation-state attack.

It is too early to determine who was behind Friday’s attacks, authorities said.

“We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation-state. China and Russia would be my first guesses,” said Bruce Schneier, a security expert and blogger.

Earlier this month, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee, in an effort to affect the presidential election.

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