WASHINGTON — Hackers now have the ability to turn any device connected to the Internet into a super cyber-weapon that can take down major websites, potentially causing havoc to the worldwide economy.
Experts say that a simple device you might have in your home — a webcam — was the key to the successful Oct. 21 attack that shut down several major websites, including Amazon, Twitter, Netflix and PayPal.
Hackers used a malware called Mirai to take over millions of Internet-enabled devices and launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Dyn, a domain name service (DNS). Because traffic on Amazon, Twitter and Netflix is routed through Dyn, those websites were not available for many users.
“A DDoS is when crooks use a large number of hacked or ill-configured systems to flood a target site with so much junk traffic that it can no longer serve legitimate visitors,” reporter and cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs wrote on his website. “DNS refers to Domain Name System services. DNS is an essential component of all Web sites, responsible for translating human-friendly Web site names like ‘example.com’ into numeric, machine-readable Internet addresses.”
The hackers used the malware and the Internet-enabled devices, such as webcams, to overwhelm Dyn with junk content, Krebs wrote.