The massive website breakdown was due to a DDoS attack on website host Dyn

Late last week, internet users
had a rude awakening when popular
websites
like Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, and even The New York Times were down. Investigators soon
discovered that, while the sites were malfunctioning, hackers had conducted a
distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the servers of Dyn, which is a
major DNS host.

When Dyn was attacked, its team
tried to reassure
customers
that they were fixing the issue, writing, “Some customers may
experience increased DNS query latency and delayed zone propagation during this
time.”  Despite any sites’ attempts to
restore calm, there’s no doubt that it’s concerning how easily such major
websites fell to this attack. Additionally, it could be argued that few people
actually know what DDoS is and how it harmed so many different outlets.

DDoS_1

For those who are not very tech
savvy and want to know why this happened, Domain Name Servers (DNS) carry out
requests to specific websites. When someone types a certain website into a
search bar, individual nodes in his or her network begin communicating with
other nodes using IP addresses. DNS then translates a URL into an IP address,
making sure you arrive at the right site. It’s such a simple process that
everyone almost takes it as a guarantee, hence many peoples’ meltdowns when the
DDoS attack occurred.

So, how do the capabilities of
DNS tie into the DDoS attack? DDoS attacks consist of using compromised
computers to strike a system through an overload of server requests. Hackers
can begin traffic through infected computers that is so powerful, it can
circumvent any blocks put on a single IP address. On Friday, a similar overload
happened to disrupt the servers of Dyn, which hosts several social media sites,
Paypal, CNN, and HBO Now, among others. Confused users had no way of knowing
that their computers had been tampered with, reflecting previous hacker
attacks
that used private computers infected with software called Botnet to
bring down websites.

These kind of attacks are clearly
more common than people realize and don’t exactly have an easy solution.
Whenever a new kind of protection for services like Dyn comes up, hackers
usually find new methods of attack to work around any improvements. For now,
the best way to avoid hacker attacks on your go-to Dyn-hosted sites is to
subscribe to multiple hosts, which is called DNS redundancy. If a site has
several hosts, they have a chance of avoiding mass attacks like this one. There’s
also the option of Transport
Layer Security
(TLS) which encrypts communication between your computer and
a web server, making the server prove that it has actually reached the domain
you need. People can apply it by typing “https” instead of “http” in a browser.

While several sites and browsers
now use TLS by default, it’s not without its flaws, and there’s no solid method
of protection from hacks. Although the Dyn breakdown was resolved within an
hour, users and security companies should still be on the lookout for ways to
prevent future massive attacks.

Source: Gizmodo
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, Gizmodo
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, The
Recompiler
, TechTarget,
Gizmodo
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