A close-up image of a web address on a computer screen. A denial-of-service attack can prevent access to a website like this one.

A major denial-of-service attack halts the internet.

Recently, most of the internet was subject to a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This attack effectively prevented access to more than 1,000 popular websites, like Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit. Ultimately causing people on the internet to collectively lose their minds. While we have discussed DDoS attacks before, it is time to define what it does and how it prevents you from accessing your favorite sites.

Denial-of-Service Attack

A denial-of-service attack is a cyber-attack. It is willfully done by an external force, looking to impede a user’s access to a website. By targeting Domain Name Servers (DNS), they were able to interrupt a user’s connection to a website. A DNS server is important when it comes to accessing the internet. It basically takes your web browser’s request to go to a certain webpage and fulfills it by making sure it goes to the right place.

In the case of the DDoS attack that recently occurred last month on October 21st, major DNS host, Dyn, was the one affected. An open source malware called the “Mirai botnet” infected IoT devices, which launched 10’s of millions of IP address at the DNS servers. A large amount of request from internet users, occurring simultaneously, can overload DNS system and prevent many from having their request to visit a website fulfilled.

How to Prevent a DDoS Attack

There is not much that a user can do to prevent a DDoS attack from happening. It is up to manufacturers to build more secure devices, especially when they connect to the internet. Dyn discovered that some of the infected devices came from Hangzhou Xiongmai, a Chinese manufacturer of computer parts.

Currently, the devices that caused the attack are being recalled and patched with security updates. The devices did not force users to change their passwords, leaving them susceptible to an infiltration. Unfortunately, many devices might carry the same security flaw as the ones made by Hangzhou Xiongmai. Unless manufacturer can provide better cybersecurity measures, more attacks like this can happen in the future.