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On Friday, cyberattacks crippled a major Internet company, repeatedly disrupting the availability of popular websites across the United States.

The hacker group claiming responsibility said 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: the increasing array of Internet-enabled household devices they can subvert and use to wreak havoc.

Manchester, N.H.-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 with a blast from a a fire hose.

The attack temporarily blocked some access to websites 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 “botnet” that threw 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.

Denial-of-service attacks have been growing in frequency and size in recent months.

But if the hackers’ claims are true, Friday’s attacks are a new level.

According to a report from the cybersecurity firm Verisign, the largest such attack perpetrated during that second quarter of this year peaked at just 256 billion bits per second.

A September attack that shut down security journalist Brian Krebs’ website clocked in at 620 billion bits per second.

Research from the cybersecurity firm Flashpoint said Friday that the same kind of malware was used in the attacks against both Krebs and Dyn.

Lance Cottrell, chief scientist for the cybersecurity firm Ntrepid, said while denial-of-service attacks have been used for years, they’ve become very popular in recent months because of the proliferation of “Internet of things” devices ranging from connected thermostats to security cameras and smart TVs.

Many of those devices feature little in the way of security, making them easy targets for hackers.

The power of this kind of cyberattack is limited by the number of devices to which an attacker can connect. Just a few years ago, most attackers were limited to infecting and recruiting “zombie” home PCs.

But the popularity of new Internet-connected gadgets has increased the pool of potential devices they can weaponize.

The average North American home contains 13 Internet-connected devices, according to the research firm IHS Markit.

Since the attacks usually don’t harm the consumer electronics companies that build the devices, or the consumers that unwittingly use them, companies have little incentive to boost security, Cottrell said.

Like with other online attacks, the motivation behind attacks is usually mischief or money. Attackers have shut down websites in the past to make political statements. Such attacks also have been used in extortion attempts, something that’s been made easier by the advent of Bitcoin.

For its part, a member of New World Hackers who gave the name “Prophet” told an Associated Press reporter over Twitter direct message that the collective isn’t motivated by money and doesn’t have anything personal against Dyn, Twitter or any of the other sites affected by the attacks.

Instead, the hacker said, the attacks were merely a test, and claimed that the next target will be the Russian government for committing alleged cyberattacks against the U.S. earlier this year.

“Twitter was kind of the main target. It showed people who doubted us what we were capable of doing, plus we got the chance to see our capability,” Prophet said.

The claims couldn’t be verified.

The collective has in the past claimed responsibility for similar attacks against sites including ESPNFantasySports.com in September and the BBC on Dec. 31.

The attack on the BBC marshaled half the computing power of Friday’s attacks.

This post was originally published here: nwaonline.com

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