SAN FRANCISCO -  Hacked devices linked to ‘sophisticated’ attack involving millions of IP addresses

Tens of millions of infected computers including a network made up of “internet of things” devices bombarded a crucial service with online traffic on the other day , disrupting a large swath of the internet in a “historic attack”.

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Many users, especially on the east coast of the US, struggled to reach websites including Twitter, Spotify, Airbnb, the New York Times and the Financial Times because of an attack on Dyn, a service which translates web addresses for many major companies.

Kyle York, Dyn’s chief strategy officer, said the New Hampshire-based company was watching for any further attacks, after two successful and a third attempted attack on the other day. He said it was a “historic attack” but the company did not yet know who was responsible.

“The nature and source of the attack is under investigation, but it was a sophisticated attack across multiple attack vectors and internet locations,” Mr York said in a blog post.  Dyn said that many of the internet protocol addresses flooding their service with requests in the attack, known as a distributed denial of service attack, were associated with the Mirai botnet, a network of internet of things devices that have been taken over by malicious software.

Flashpoint, a cyber security company that assisted Dyn in analysing the locations of the attack, said the Mirai malware targets devices such as digital video recorders, webcams and routers. The source code, or blueprint, for the malware was released online earlier this month.

That makes it easier for hackers to create their own botnet of the type used in recent attacks, such as the one which brought down the site of cyber security blogger Brian Krebs and which hit hosting company OVH at the end of September.

 “Copycat hackers have used the malware to create botnets of their own in order to launch distributed denial of service attacks,” Flashpoint said.

There are now more than 6.2bn connected internet of things devices in the world, according to data from research firm Gartner, far more than conventional computers. Many have been designed without security in mind, manufactured by companies that do not usually connect their products to the internet, or made without basic measures such as passwords because of the memory or keyboard that might require.

Hackers used this network of vulnerable devices to target a bottleneck in the internet infrastructure. Dyn translates web addresses such as FT.com into a series of numbers that the internet can understand. By bombarding it with too much traffic, cyber criminals can disrupt several high profile websites at once.

Dyn says it provides services to eight of the top internet services and retail companies in the world and six of the top 10 entertainment companies.