A massive attack took out a swath of the internet, affecting Twitter, Spotify, Github, and more

It’s an east coast thing.
It’s an east coast thing.
Image: Downdetector
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An online attack early in the US overwhelmed a service from internet-naming service provider Dyn, causing the websites of its customers, including major destinations like Twitter, Spotify, Github and Shopify to be unavailable to swathes of internet users for several hours.

Update: Dyn reported a new attack at 11:52 ET. Twitter, Spotify, and PayPal are some of the services showing a spike in outages on Down Detector.

Update (2pm): The US Department of Homeland Security told CBS News that it was aware of the cyber attack and is “investigating all potential causes.” Reuters reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also looking into the widespread disruptions along the east coast of the country.

Update (5pm): On a conference call Friday afternoon, Dyn told customers that it had just resolved a third cyberattack. They’re “hitting our network from tens of millions of IP addresses around the world,” Dyn chief strategy officer Kyle York said.

Some of the sources of the attacks were “Internet of Things” devices, such as baby monitors, DVRs, printers, and other appliances that are connected to the internet. These were infected with the Mirai botnet—a malware code released online in recent weeks. The attack, which initially targeted the east coast of the US, has moved through over 18 of Dyn’s data center locations around the world.

Dyn confirmed that a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack affected its “Managed DNS” service on its status page:

This attack is mainly impacting US East and is impacting Managed DNS customers in this region. Our engineers are continuing to work on mitigating this issue.

The company restored service a few hours later:

The company, an internet management company headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, said it began monitoring the attack at 11:10 UTC (7:10 ET) today. Since Dyn provides services around the internet’s domain name system or DNS, this means that users’ computers were unable or very slow to locate a given website address. The DNS is the same system that the US signed over to ICANN earlier this month.

Hacker News users tracked extent of the damage at this thread, which was highlighted by Techcrunch. Twitter has been named as a Dyn customer before. Here is a map showing Twitter outages globally. Among the websites that users reported affected were:

  • Dyn
  • Twitter
  • Spotify
  • Soundcloud
  • Etsy
  • Github
  • Heroku
  • Shopify
  • Intercom
  • The Guardian
  • CNN

Outages such as these can be remedied by changing a computer’s DNS settings (here’s a guide from MacWorld)  or using a VPN, or virtual private network, which will make it appear like you’re located elsewhere (here’s a guide to VPNs from Engadget).

Denial of service attacks have grown even more potent of late. In September, a new record was set for the amount of traffic that could be marshaled in a single attack, thanks to networks of internet-connected surveillance cameras being hijacked to form malicious botnets. Akamai, the firm that experienced the attack at the time, has warned that massive DDoS attacks will be “the new norm.”