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So the Internet Broke. What Happened?

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Need to Know

On Friday, a laundry list of internet giants – Netflix, PayPal, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, and Twitter among them – became inaccessible to users across the United States and some of Europe.

The outage was the result of three cyberattacks on the New Hampshire-headquartered company Dyn over a ten-hour period on Friday.

Little-known to the general public, Dyn (and many companies like it) hosts the Domain Name Service (DNS), translating web addresses into machine-readable numerical addresses. More often than not DNS hosts are referred to as the internet’s switchboard – they provide the infrastructure that makes it all work.

So how did it happen?

A Dyn spokesperson told CNBC that the attacks were “well planned and executed, coming from tens of millions of IP addresses at the same time.”

It appears that Dyn fell victim to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS ) attack, where the targeted machine is disrupted through a flood of nonsense or superfluous requests, thereby overloading the system.

And the source of that attack has proved especially troubling – a large portion of the six million + Internet of Things devices that have been compromised by the Mirai malware strain that first came to public attention in September.

Only last Wednesday, Kaspersky Labs’ ThreatPost speculated that at least 490,000 devices are infected.

According to internet security guru Brian Krebs, it appears that hacked CCTV video cameras and DVRs were largely behind Friday’s attack.

Most remarkable is the sheer lack of expertise such an attack requires. As Robert Graham, at The Daily Beast writes, “Some have suggested that nation states are behind this attack—but so far we’ve seen nothing sophisticated, nothing requiring nation state resources. All this is within the abilities of a particularly nerdy teenager working out of her mother’s basement.”

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