glowing keyboard

DDoS Attack Impacts Millions
of End Users

| published September 7, 2016 |

By Thursday Review staff writers

A major cyber-attack this week brought intermittent and interrupted access for thousands of websites and millions of users, according to information provided by several cyber-security firms and a statement by Support Nation, a group which provides technical support for websites and online operations.

The attack—known as a DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service attack—impacted websites in varying ways, but most often by making those pages unavailable to visitors. (Thursday Review was among the thousands of websites affected by the interruptions; some readers reported that our pages were slow to load on their computers or mobile devices; others reported no access at all to our articles or departments). Impacted were large web service providers such as Who Is and Go Daddy.

A DDoS attack most commonly occurs when numerous related or unrelated systems or servers overwhelm a specific set of networks, computers or machines by consuming large swaths of bandwidth, with the end result being that the incoming load of requests creates a bottleneck and eventual shutdown. The resulting gridlock causes legitimate users to get stuck in the same massive traffic jam.

These attacks are often launched deliberately, but can also be the result of a variety of unrelated, unintentional attacks brought about by malicious code or by viruses. In recent years DDoS attacks have been directed at major companies—such as banks, retail stores, and cable television companies. But news of the high profile attacks on these companies often overlook the fact that hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other operations can be impacted in a DDoS.

Attacks can also occur through stealth, leaving those companies and firms most affected unaware that the DDoS attack is underway until hours, days, or even weeks have passed, though the impact will surely be felt on the bottom line at some later point. Some of the most effective DDoS attacks come in the form of group attacks in which multiple assailants use multiple computers and systems to assault the primary target. Many of these large scale and group-inspired DDoS attacks are attempts to wrest control of the network or system it is attacking by introducing what is known as a Botnet.

The first signs that a DDoS attack was underway started on September 13, when technicians at Who Is—which is based in several Asian cities—began receiving calls and messages regarding customers whose end-users were unable to access websites and networks. The problem persisted for about 48 hours before techs were able to identify the vulnerability which opened the door for the attack. By late Thursday in the United States, most users reported that the impacted websites were operating normally, and that pages were resolving properly.

Related Thursday Review articles:

North Korea Able to track Digital Files?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; December 29, 2015.

Anonymous Hacktivists Plan to Wage Cyber War on ISIS; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; November 17, 2015.