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

October 21, 2016

ddos-attack-today

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.

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