Attacks on the Internet Keep Getting Bigger and Nastier

Could millions of connected cameras, thermostats and kids' toys bring the internet to its knees? It's beginning to look that way.

On Friday, epic cyberattacks crippled a major internet firm, repeatedly disrupting the availability of popular websites across the United States. The hacker group claiming responsibility says that the day's antics were just a dry run and that it has its sights set on a much bigger target. And the attackers now have a secret weapon in the increasing array of internet-enabled household devices they can subvert and use to wreak havoc.

Meet the Fire House

Manchester, New Hampshire-based Dyn Inc. said its server infrastructure was hit by distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks. These work by overwhelming targeted machines with junk data traffic -- sort of like knocking someone over by blasting them with a fire hose. The attack temporarily blocked some access to popular websites from across America and Europe such as Twitter, Netflix and PayPal.

Jason Read, founder of the internet performance monitoring firm CloudHarmony, owned by Gartner Inc., said his company tracked a half-hour-long disruption early Friday affecting access to many sites from the East Coast. A second attack later in the day spread disruption to the West Coast as well as some users in Europe.

Members of a shadowy hacker group that calls itself New World Hackers claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter, though that claim could not be verified. They said they organized networks of connected devices to create a massive botnet that threw a monstrous 1.2 trillion bits of data every second at Dyn's servers. Dyn officials wouldn't confirm the figure during a conference call later Friday with reporters.

Make That, Many Fire Hoses

DDoS attacks have been growing in frequency and size in recent months. But if the hackers' claims are true, Friday's attacks take DDoS to a new...

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