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Understanding Friday’s cyber attack

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – If you tried accessing sites like Twitter or attempted to watch your favorite shows on Netflix earlier Friday, you may have had a hard time.

Those popular sites—among others—were down because a key firm called DYN was the target of a large-scale cyber attack. It disrupted internet access and company operations in the east coast and around the country.

How does something so widespread like this happen?

Joe Blanchard and Cliff Smith consider themselves ethical hackers. They are part of OWASP, a nationwide nonprofit that teaches web security through meetings and hack-a-thons in the St. Louis region. They explained that the company which was cyber-attacked, DYN, is a major DNS host which manages IP addresses for some of the biggest names in the web: Twitter, Amazon, Visa, and Netflix.

This particular attack is known as a Denial of Service, which floods sites with junk data.

“If we flood thousands of these DNS requests to a single server, eventually it's going to reach a breaking point,” said Cliff Smith. “[And it’s] not going to be able to respond anymore.”

Since DYN got attacked, the big name websites it manages were also overloaded, temporarily shutting them down.

“So instead of hitting a single site and taking it out, they've been able to step up their game to another level and affect numerous sites and services,” Joe Blanchard said.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are investigating the cyber attack.