Let's be honest, there are few things more annoying than websites that refuse to load (also a total #firstworldproblem if there ever was one), but if you live on the east coast, chances are that was your reality earlier today. That's because, according to Gizmodo, a huge distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was launched on DNS server Dyn, keeping Internet users from being able to access a variety of popular websites, including Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Pinterest, Etsy, and pretty much every other site you normally waste time on in the morning when you're supposed to be working. Tweets about the DDoS attack show that the outage was widespread and frustrating for all involved. But the attack also spawned a slew of funny tweets full of DDoS-related GIFs, so, you know, it kind of makes up for the fact that many of us spent the morning yelling at our computer screens.
According to Digital Attack Map, a website that tracks and logs DDoS attacks around the world, a DDoS attack is basically when hackers gain access to a network of personal computers (AKA a "botnet") through the spread of malware and viruses, and then uses that network to overwhelm websites with massive amounts of traffic that brings them down. That sucks for lots of reasons: your computer could be part of a botnet without you even realizing it (ack); a DDoS attack is hugely disruptive to the website, company or organization that's been targeted (not to mention hard to prevent); and it's also disruptive to anyone who's actually trying to access the website.
Not being able to check tweets on Twitter during your morning commute might not seem like a huge deal, but all sorts of DDoS attacks happen daily on all sorts of different sites. In January, for example, HSBC was the victim of a DDoS attack, which meant that customers were unable to access online banking services, according to The Independent, and according to Digital Attack Map, DDoS attacks are a cheap and easy way for anyone to "silence websites they disagree with or disrupt an organization’s online operations," especially if that organization is small and without the infrastructure to protect itself.
In this case, the attack on Dyn led to a cascade of website issues, because, according to PC World, as a DNS server, Dyn's job is essentially convert the url users type into their browsers into their respective numeric IP addresses, thus allowing users to access the website. The DDoS attack would have prevent Dyn from doing so, causing a ton of connection issues. In a statement, Dyn explained,
Starting at 11:10 UTC on October 21th-Friday 2016 we began monitoring and mitigating a DDoS attack against our Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure. Some customers may experience increased DNS query latency and delayed zone propagation during this.
Dyn services have since been restored, but surely without plenty of stress and headaches for the company. And as a number of Twitter users mentioned, it wasn't exactly the most enjoyable day to work in IT:
Others joked about the unintended advantages of the attack:
While most tweets just liked to poke fun at the collective misery the Internet feels when websites don't work properly:
Then there's always the speculation about what might have really been behind the outage:
And this perfect tweet, which just makes everything feel OK again:
In other words, even when Internet hackers have screwed up everyone's morning, it's good to know that Twitter can always be counted on to express in 140 characters exactly how the rest of the world is feeling.