Popular websites disrupted in brutal cyber attack


You may not have noticed it, but the internet was hit by a large cyber-attack on Friday. In Europe, the effects were modest. But in the US, the attack was far reaching. Popular websites such as CNN, Twitter, Spotify and PayPal were all taken offline on Friday afternoon by a DDoS attack on the servers of Dyn, a major DNS host.

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Since Friday’s attack, a Chinese firm that builds internet connected cameras – Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology – has admitted that its products were inadvertently behind the attack. The cameras were ‘hacked’ on a large scale due to security vulnerabilities, particularly weak default passwords and used to force traffic towards Dyn simultaneously, taking servers offline.

Hackers used malware known as Mirai to gain control of the cameras, and then cause them to send large amounts of internet traffic to Dyn. A spokesperson for Dyn said on Friday that the attack was “well planned and well executed, coming from tens of millions of IP addresses at the same time.”

Fortunately, this sort of attack is unlikely to have resulted in any losses of sensitive data, as so many cyber-attacks are these days. Instead, it is more an attack of inconvenience. Forcing offline a number of websites that people use and enjoy daily. However, the attack is a major setback for the ‘internet of things’. As more and more devices become internet connected, such as kitchen appliances, security cameras and other home gadgets, the number of things that can be used in cyber-attacks increases exponentially.

This attack is also a stark reminder that cyber-security should be a key priority of all businesses operating over the internet, which these days is virtually all of them. The Chinese firm mentioned earlier blamed weak default passwords for allowing hackers to gain control of their cameras.

Using that information, ask yourself how your cyber security is doing. Are your passwords easy to guess? Do you regularly patch and update your servers? If your answers to those two questions are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ then perhaps Friday’s attack might act as a stimulus to get protected. After all, hackers wanting to access your office computers would potentially be able to steal sensitive data, rather than simply knocking your website offline for a few hours.

Too often cyber-security is overlooked. Take action to protect your business before it is too late!

Keywords in this article:

DDoS: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks make online services unavailable by overwhelming their servers with traffic from multiple sources. DDoS attacks can target important resources such as banks, news websites and utilities.

DNS: Domain Name Servers (DNS) act as the internet's phone book. They facilitate your request to go to a certain webpage and ensure that you get to the right place.

Malware: Software which is specifically designed to disrupt or damage a computer system. 

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