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Worst-ever DDoS attacks on DNS servers hit the Internet where it hurts


All morning, Friday, October 21st, the domain name infrastructure of the Internet has been under major attack from persons or groups unknown.

For me, here in Vancouver, B.C., the problems began just before 9 a.m., when I suddenly couldn’t connect to Twitter or WordPress—but I could connect to the Guardian website. Then I could log on to my WordPress blog but I still couldn’t connect to Twitter.

This was a routing issue well beyond just my web browser or the free McDonald’s Wi-Fi that I was using to connect to the Internet.

What was happening was that waves of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoSs) were being aimed at the computer servers of a company called Dyn, a major provider of Internet domain name look-up services.

Domain name servers map domain name URLs to numeric IP addresses and perform the vital behind-the-scenes task on the Internet of directing URL requests from web browsers to their proper destination websites.

As Dyn’s server were repeatedly taken offline by DDoS attacks, millions of people found that they suddenly couldn’t connect to websites; these were people like Time Warner Cable subscribers on the East Coast of the United States, whose traffic requests were routed through Dyn’s DNS infrastructure.

Interestingly, most of the real-time online digital attack maps that exist to alert people to DDoS activity have themselves been effectively knocked offline.

According to an early report by the website BGR the following websites were down at 9:11 a.m.: Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Esty, Box, Wix Customer Sites, Squarespace Customer Sites, Zoho CRM and iHeartRadio.

From where I sit, here in Vancouver, it’s now 11:50 a.m. and Twitter, at least, is still inaccessible.

Oh, look at the pretty bird outside!

Update (12:27 p.m.): As Wired explains, the ongoing DDoS attacks are localized to servers on the East Coast of the United States. Therefore, the fact that I was experiencing disruptions here in Vancouver, B.C.—on the West Coast—was mainly due to McDonald’s free Wi-Fi, which is provided by the Bell Canada network, based in eastern Canada.

As soon as I switched to my Wind Mobile cellular Internet stick, I regained full access to the Internet, including Twitter.

Update (1:07 p.m): According to Gizmodo the DDoS attacks and resulting access outages continue and have spread to the U.S. West Coast. The list of affected websites has grown exponentially, from 12 to 85!

Update (4:11 p.m.): According to Bloomberg, the DDoS attack used “tens of millions of malware-infected devices”. Internet security blogger Brian Krebbs has pointed out that the massive and sustained attack on the servers of Dyn began just a few hours after a Dyn researcher publicly exposed the “sometimes blurry lines” between certain DDoS mitigation firms and the hackers that carry out such attacks. Click the image to enlarge it.

The Great B.C. ShakeOut—take a minute to save your life

Even homeless people can participate in the Great B.C. ShakeOut.

Everyone can participate in the Great B.C. ShakeOut!

This year’s Great British Columbia ShakeOut takes place on Thursday, October 20, at 10:20 a.m. So get ready to participate along with everyone else in the province.

And if you find a homeless person sleeping in your doorway Thursday morning please do not be alarmed. They may be using your doorway to practice their earthquake preparedness.

They probably just arrived too early and nodded off.

Homeless people may be weak on scheduling but our survival instinct is as strong as anyone’s.

The fact is, when the predicted Big One does finally hit somewhere in B.C. all of us who live in the province will be in it together. Read more…

Sausage party studio investigated for making animators work for free


We are told that if we had to watch sausages being made we wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of them—the same may also be true of animated feature films about sausages.

Today (October 18) I read in my morning newspaper that the B.C. Employment Standards Branch is reviewing a complaint lodged on August 23 by the media union Unifor Local 2000, on behalf of the non-union animators working for Nitrogen Studios Canada Inc.

The complaint alleges that Nitrogen Studios forced its animators to work unpaid overtime during the making of the hit 2016 animated feature film Sausage Party, which was released August 12. and had a boffo box office (in U.S. dollars) of $132.2 million, against  a paltry cost of only $19 million.

This story reminded me of something that I’d seen over a month and a half ago in an East Vancouver back alley. It was a hand-scrawled poster addressed no one in particular—an anguished statement about unpaid overtime and Canadian animators. Read more…

Hillary Clinton takes a hard line on pronouncing “GIF”

Hillary Clinton—aka, the most qualified human being ever to run for the office of the President of the United States—just gave Americans one more compelling reason to vote for her on November 28, er, November 8.

Thyrsday,October 13, during a speech at a San Francisco fundraiser, Clinton declared—in reference to the negative tone of her Republican opponent Donald Trump and his many insulting references to immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, veterans. the disabled, women (basically everyone but himself):

“There’s hardly any part of America that he has not targeted. Now it makes you want to turn off the news. It makes you want to unplug the Internet or just look at cat GIFs.

“Believe me, I get it. In the last few weeks, I’ve watched a lot of cats do a lot of weird and interesting things. But we have a job to do and it will be good for people and for cats.”

In her wholly relateable way, Clinton surely echoed the sentiments of millions of people (and cats) who have been nauseated by Donald Trump’s divisive and abuse-filled campaign.

The Democratic presidential nominee and former U.S. First Lady, New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State, further demonstrated her fitness for the highest office in the land by correctly pronouncing the word “GIF” with a hard “G”—as in “gift, or “govern”, rather than with a soft “G”, as in “gentleman”, or “genitalia”. Read more…

Have human lifespans maxed out at 115 years?


One school of thought about human longevity believes that death should be treatable and curable—like a disease; while another can best be summed up by the old adage that in this world, “nothing is certain except death and taxes“.

Now a group of American scientists are saying that they’re not certain if any of us will be around to pay taxes much past the age of 115.

In a paper published October 5 in Nature, entitled “Evidence for a Limit to Human Lifespan”, three geneticists use global demographic data to argue that the steady increase in longevity, caused by improvements in health, diet and environment, that began in the 19th century, has leveled off at a maximum lifespan of 115 years—give or take.

Says the study’s senior author Jan Vijg, Ph.D.:

“Demographers as well as biologists have contended there is no reason to think that the ongoing increase in maximum lifespan will end soon but our data strongly suggest that it has already been attained and that this happened in the 1990s”.

The study’s three authors, who all hail from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, USA, assert that their data also “strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints”.

The data, it turns out, is meant to support a certain conclusion, namely that human beings have reached peak lifespan and therefore healthcare resources are better focused on quality over quantity, where lifespan is concerned.

However, the statistical data doesn’t actually warrant the conclusion that the study draws. All the data shows is that, with notable exceptions, the longest-lived human beings aren’t living much past 150—it doesn’t prove that they can’t, or won’t.

A skeptical person might ask what came first, the conclusion or the evidence.

Read more…

October 2004 felt so much colder but it could’ve just been me

That's not ice, just a really big blob of rainwater in a leaf yesterday morning.

That’s not ice, just a really big blob of rainwater on a leaf earlier this week.

We all know that the summer months in Vancouver are now warmer and drier than they were, say 12 years ago. My personal experience tells me that October has likewise gotten much milder over the same period.

But darned if I can find much statistical evidence of the dramatic warming trend that I believe has taken place. Read more…