Neustar, the company which provides DNS services under the brand name of UltraDNS, suffered an attack on its server which forced several major internet shopping websites to go offline, just two days before Christmas.
The affected e-commerce sites included the likes of Amazon, Wal-Mart and Expedia which went offline or became "sluggishly" slow following the attack.
Allen Goldberg, the Vice President for corporate communications at Neustar, said that the attack, which was directed at the company’s Palo Alto and San Jose facilities in California, started at around 4.45 pm on Wednesday afternoon, local time.
A DNS service provider allows the numeric IP address listed by a website to be translated into character based URL so that people are able to remember the name of the website.
When a DNS service provider is flooded with malicious requests, it tends to overload and trip, preventing users from accessing their favorite web site.
The company said that they started receiving a very high number of queries in their system which was immediately interpreted as an attack and within minutes a ‘mitigation response’ was deployed to counter-attack it.
This swift reaction succeeded in limiting the problem to California as the affected websites were back online within the hour.
However, apart from the big players, several small websites that depend on Amazon for web-hosting also suffered from the attack as it affected Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services. The DNS system appears to be one of the weaker links of websites online.
(Tech Radar UK)
(Wall Street Journal)