Sorry, I’m dead

Today, October the 21st, the world has gone mad due to many sites being “down” or “not loading”. This isn’t quite what happened. The internet doesn’t just stop working and hackers don’t just turn a service down. There is method in madness and I’m here to explain it to you.

What happened today was a DDoS attack to a DNS. Sounds like I’m speaking in another language, right? It’s actually rather simple. A DDoS attack is a Distributed Denial of Service attack. This can be explained with a simple analogy. (The analogy was provided by Rubiology, so special thanks to him).

Imagine you are in a taco stand, there is only one person making the tacos and there are many others surrounding the stand to make their order. A DDoS attack is when there are a lot of people yelling “I want 3 tacos!” at the same time and the taco-maker gets stressed out, says “I’m not giving any tacos to any of you!” and storms out.

taco

These is how real tacos look like, by the way. Gif obtained here

Much like a taco-maker, an internet server has a limited capacity and when that capacity is reached, it crashes.

Now, a DNS is a Domain Name System. This is like a phone directory (sorry, Digital Natives, you’re gonna have to ask your parents what that is) for the web pages. It assigns their IP address. So, when you shut down a DNS and a web page has no other way of giving clients the IP address, it simply won’t display anything and your browser will say something like this:

dns_probe_finished_nxdomain-error-message

Image obtained here

What happened today is that hackers combined the two and attacked the DNS provider via a DDoS. This is why none of us were able to access the affected pages. The company’s name is Dyn and some of the pages and services that suffered this attack were Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Paypal, Airbnb, Reddit and many more. I almost collapsed when I wanted to tweet about what was going on but couldn’t due to it.

This type of attacks are very common and incredibly easy to create. However you need a lot of computers and processing power to kill a DNS as big as that one. As a hacker, I can say the attack was brilliant and very impressive. As a user, I can only say, HOW DARE YOU?!. Below you can see how the attack looked like.

ddos

Gif obtained here

So now you know what happened and you can go ahead and brag about it using my fancy terms. You’re welcome.

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5 thoughts on “Sorry, I’m dead

  1. *This* was a much better explanation than one from a Big Major Publisher a colleagues tweeted (much later) that supposedly explained why http://gizmodo.com/this-is-probably-why-half-the-internet-shut-down-today-1788062835

    And they did not mention tacos. I might add that the people yelling at the taco stand do not even any tacos, and they likely brought extra audio devices to add to the mayhem. ll they want to do is to keep the taco stand from operating. For the lulz.

    The issue counters our idea of the internet being a distributed network of nodes impervious to attack because of its inter-connected, neutral state. Thats not the problem, what is is having a somewhat centralized service for finding the addresses of those nodes.

    You can bypass the need for DNS by maintaining a hosts file on your computer (/etc/hosts for you commandliners) IF you know the numerical IP address. So what would happen if there was a way to keep your own DNS? Maybe not for everything on the internet, just the sites you use regularly. If a site is not in your local DNS, maybe it could look it up elsewhere, and you could decided whether to add it to your book.

    Would that work?

    Can I have a carne asada taco?

    • It could work and sounds very interesting, yesterday I was thinking about how the internet will change after this attack and I’m excited to see what happens. Have as many tacos as you want!! Thanks for reading me, I’m glad you liked this post 🙂

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