Last week’s massive attack against numerous websites and apps was a serious warning of just how much of the nation’s infrastructure is vulnerable to attack. Most experts agree that cyber attacks will continue and become increasingly disruptive to the country. The cyber attack last Friday exposed some critical weaknesses in our cyber defenses that demands a fix sooner rather than later.
What is true is that we are all connected. We're all wired now. One of the biggest challenges for the next president and the president after that and the president after that is going to be how do we continue to get all the benefits of being in cyberspace but protect our finances, protect our privacy. — President Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Distributed Denial of Service attack
Briefly, what happened last Friday was a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against Dyn, a key provider of domain name services (DNS). When you try and reach a site, such as Twitter, it is a DNS provider like Dyn that translates ‘Twitter’ into the long numeric IP address that none of us could ever remember. By using malicious software, a hacker can flood a critical point in the system, in this case, Dyn, and simply overwhelm the system with a massive number of inquiries.
What happens in these attacks is that malicious software is loaded onto millions of devices that use the internet and then sits dormant until the attack is launched. At that point, you have millions of devices each making the same request at the same time, and systems are overwhelmed. The attack, as is the case with most cyber attacks, could have been prevented by individual users incorporating better internet security into their daily routine. But the reality is that most people already feel overwhelmed with multiple and complicated passwords and simply don’t bother.
Billions of connected devices
Anything that is connected to the internet can be compromised. That includes an extensive list of items used in our daily lives ranging from computers and phones to cars and DVR’s. Last week’s attack was thought to include webcams.
A report from market research firm Gartner at the end of 2015 forecast that 6.4 billion “connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016,” which marks a 30 percent jump from 2015. Looking ahead to 2020, the firm estimates there could be as many as 20.8 billion devices hooked up to the internet. — ABC News
Unlike attacks that seek to get personal user information to allow bank accounts or credit card accounts to be compromised, last Friday’s attack seemed to have no financial incentive for those behind the hacks.
Initial suspect was Russia
The initial suspicion was that the Russians were behind the attack as a way of warning the Obama administration not to retaliate against Russia for their presumed involvement in the hacked emails from the Clinton campaign and DNC. However, on Tuesday, Director of National Security James Clapper, said that “preliminary results show a non-state actor” was behind the attack.
Since the Obama administration formally accused Russia about a week ago of trying to interfere in the election, there has been intense speculation about whether President Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to conduct a retaliatory cyberstrike. — The New York Times
A group calling itself NewWorldHacking has claimed credit for the attack and stated they undertook the attack to draw attention to the deficiencies in cyber security.
As President Obama said, cyber attacks present the country with an immediate risk and new ways to protect the security of the internet needs to become an even greater national priority.