ACS email Service Interrupted – Nationwide Cyber Attacks

ACS email Service Interrupted – Nationwide Cyber Attacks

At approximately 8:30am PST, Attorney’s Certified Services began to experience intermittent issues sending and receiving emails. Our IT department began to research the problem and found news reports that the nation was under cyber attack. As of 2:00pm PST, the issues were resolved and email services were restored to our offices. We are asking clients who sent emails to us during this time, to confirm they were received.

MSN.com reported: SAN FRANCISCO — Multiple waves of online attacks blocked many major websites Friday, at times making it impossible for users on the East Coast to access Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and other sites. The attacks used Mirai, an easy-to-use program that allows even unskilled hackers to take over online devices and use them to launch distributed denial of service, or DDoS attacks. Malware from phishing emails can infect a computer or home network, then spread to everything on it, taking over DVRs, cable set-top boxes, routers and even Internet-connected cameras used by stores and businesses for surveillance. The source code for Mirai was released on the so-called dark web at the beginning of the month. Those are sites that require specific software or authorization to access and that operate as a sort of online underground for hackers. The release led some security experts to suggest it would soon be widely used by hackers. That appears to have happened in this case. The Mirai botnet harnesses the computing power of Internet connected devices as the engine behind its denial of service attacks. These devices then flood a particular site or service with large amounts of fake traffic, overwhelming the system and making it impossible for legitimate messages to get through.

Effects felt nationwide

The first attacks appear to have begun around 7:10 a.m. Friday, then resolved towards 9:30 a.m.. Then waves began. “It’s been a hectic day,” said York. Dyn  posted on its website that it “began monitoring and mitigating a DDoS attack against our Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the Department of Homeland Security was “monitoring the situation” but that “at this point I don’t have any information about who may be responsible for this malicious activity.”

Who and why unknown

So far Dyn has not been able to ascertain whether the attack is aimed at any specific customer. “We have no reason to believe it is at this point,” said Dave Allen, the company’s general counsel. The attack is “consistent with record-setting sized cyberattacks seen in the last few weeks,” said Carl Herberger, vice president of security at security company Radware.

Disruption

A post on Hacker News first identified the attack and named the sites that were affected. Several sites, including Spotify and GitHub, took to Twitter this morning to post status updates once the social network was back online. Twitter users similarly took to the service to keep lists of which sites were down and comment on the situation. The term DDoS quickly vaulted to among the top of the site’s list of “Trending Topics” in the United States. “DDoS attack this morning takes out Reddit, Twitter & Spotify,” wrote user @Anubis8. “Work productivity increases by 300%.” “Anyone else having a whole lot of trouble with sites loading properly this morning?,” tweeted Emmy Caitlin. “Paypal is down, Twitter was down, Netflix half loading.”

How the attack works

As part of its business, Dyn provides DNS services for a given swath of the Internet, effectively its address book. DNS stands for Domain Name System, the decentralized network of files that list the domain names human beings use, such as usatoday.com, with their numeric Internet Protocol addresses, such as 184.50.238.11, which is how computers look for websites. “If you go to a site, say yahoo.com, your browser needs to know what the underlying Internet address that’s associated with that URL is. DNS is the service that does that conversion,”  said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer for Intel Security. The attack hit the Dyn server that contains that address book. Dyn provides that service to multiple Internet companies. For anyone linked to a computer that used the service, when they entered twitter.com or tumblr.com or Spotify.com, via a complex series of jumps the address book is able to tell their browser which numerical IP address to look at. The DDoS attack floods that server with illegitimate requests, so many that very few real requests can get through. The user gets a message that the server is not available. Service is intermittent because a few requests are sometimes still able to go through. In addition, many sites keep cached address books their computers can refer to. However those caches always have a time limit on them and when that “time to live” expires, they must go back to the DNS server to confirm the IP address is valid. If the DNS server is unavailable, a site that was working could suddenly stop being available, said Grobman.

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Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal

Elizabeth Weise covers technology and cybersecurity for USA TODAY. Follow her at@eweise.

 

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