The problem with outages – whether electricity or internet related – is that they almost always occur when you least expect them. And that's just what happened for millions of online users on Oct. 21 across the country, just as they were about to kick off the last day of another work week.
"Dozens of websites were down for almost 12 hours."
At right around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, some of the internet's most highly trafficked websites went dark, including Netflix, Tumblr, Reddit, PayPal, Spotify and Twitter, multiple news outlets reported. Not until almost 12 hours later were the websites back online. An investigation into the issue confirmed what experts had suspected – the culprits were cyberattackers, who dispatched a distributed denial of service virus attack. The victim was a New England-based internet hosting company that monitors web traffic.
Kyle York, chief strategy officer for Dyn, the company that was affected by the cybersecurity scare, told reporters that DDoS attacks are an ever-evolving threat.
"We start to mitigate, [and] they react," York explained on a conference call, according to USA Today. "It keeps on happening every time. We're learning though."
How do DDoS attacks work?
DDoS attacks are not new to the cybersecurity world. Similar to the effects of a flash mob, DDoS stratagems are often successful because targeted systems are inculcated by numerous requests for information, so much so that they shut down. The consequential effects of the server overload enhance the vulnerability of sensitive data.
"Starting at 11:10 a.m. on October 21 Friday 2016, we began monitoring and mitigating a DDoS attack against our Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure," the New Hampshire-based web traffic company announced on its website. "Some customers may experience increased DNS query latency and delayed zone propagation during this time. Updates will be posted as information becomes available."
Indeed, decreased accessibility was wide ranging, affecting well over 50 websites, including CNN, Business Insider, Pinterest, Fox News, Soundcloud, The New York Times and Zillow.com, according to Gizmodo.
In today's mobile generation, where internet users are logging on with a variety of devices beyond laptops and smartphones, the broad-based DDoS attack was realized in offices, workplaces, even appliances.
"It could be your DVR, it could be a CCTV camera, a thermostat," York said, according to USA Today."I even saw an Internet-connected toaster on Kickstarter yesterday."
Cybersecurity experts warn that since the internet is a shared space, DDoS viruses are worrisome because they can create a domino effect, where if one server isn't secured, it increases the potential that others may be infiltrated, turning what would be a confined issue into a full-blown one that makes quarantining virtually impossible.
Famida Rashid, an information security expert at InfoWorld, noted that much like ransomware, DDoS attacks are happening with greater frequency and are "no longer minor inconveniences, nor are they solely used by unsophisticated adversaries."
"40 percent rarely review or update their data security plans."
Businesses failing to update their IT security systems
The massive outage is the latest example that despite web users understanding that internet threats are real and present dangers, they may not be as ready to combat them as they suspect. According to a recent report released by credit agency Experian, over 85 percent of companies have a data breach preparedness plan in place, up sharply from 61 percent in 2013. However, almost 40 percent confessed that they rarely reviewed or updated their plans and 29 percent have never done so since implementation.
Business continuity planning is no longer merely a smart strategy, but a necessity. No matter how small or large your company is, it's vulnerable to an attack even when you think you've covered all your bases.
This is what makes Instant Business Recovery an invaluable tool. A one-click resolution to IT chaos and confusion, IBR can help you keep your company up and running when servers fail. It's an added layer of support that can put your firm one step ahead when the going gets tough.