Users also reported being unable to access sites such as PayPal, Pinterest and AirBnB, while PlayStation users claim the network was down too. Twitter, Spotify and Netflix are among some of the world’s most popular websites targeted by ‘hackers’ in a major cyber attack today.
US officials are investigating an alleged Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack – a popular trick that floods a website’s servers with requests and overloads it, according to reports. The Department of Homeland Security told the Guardian it was probing what caused several leading websites, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Reports suggest it is mostly those based on the US east coast who are unable to gain access, but some European users have also been affected.
The attack appears to have been focused on Dyn – a server provider for those websites.The company said it was working to “mitigate” the issue and restore the service.
Some of the affected companies have separately confirmed the issue.
No one has yet confirmed responsibility for the attack.
It was suggested that there was a possible link to supporters of controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
However Wikileaks denied these claims, posting on Twitter this evening: “Mr. Assange is still alive and WikiLeaks is still publishing. We ask supporters to stop taking down the US internet. You proved your point.”
A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with internet traffic from multiple sources.
This is achieved by creating a network of tens of thousands of compromised computers, known as a “botnet”, to flood a website’s servers with page view requests, leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through.
This huge volume of connection requests can quickly overwhelm a server and, in some cases, cause an entire website to crash.
How is a botnet created?
In order to add computers to a botnet, hackers must first take control of each machine individually.
They achieve this by exploiting vulnerabilities within the computer’s operating system to install malicious software that provides them with remote access to the PC
Although the impact of a DDoS attack can be cataclysmic for websites, they are relatively easy to execute for someone with the right technical expertise.
Building a botnet is the difficult and time-consuming part – so much so that some enterprising cyber criminals actually “lease” botnets to one another for spur-of-the-moment attacks.
Why do people carry out DDoS attacks?
People carry out denial of service attacks for a variety of reasons, and target a wide range of important resources, from banks to news websites.
Some “bedroom hackers” do it simply for the bragging rights, while cyber criminals often do it for blackmail.