National cyberattack knocks out Seton Hall Okta services

The Oct. 21 cyberattack made it impossible for millions to access a number of Internet services. Screengrab via Department of Information Technology

The Oct. 21 cyberattack made it impossible for millions to access a number of Internet services. Screengrab via Department of Information Technology

Any student who lost access to PirateNet and other SHU Okta services early morning on Friday, Oct. 21 wasn’t just experiencing a small, local internet outage.

At approximately 7 a.m. that day, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack impacted the United States, primarily hitting the East Coast. A DDoS attack hacks computers and networked devices to flood a targeted system with an overwhelming amount of internet traffic, causing the servers to crash.

Friday’s cyberattack was aimed at internet infrastructure company, Dyn, which serves as an address book for the Internet, according to Wired.com. Dyn converts web addresses into IP addresses that connect with servers to provide the requested Web page.

Dr. Stephen Landry, chief information officer at Seton Hall, said that SHU services were regained and made available by 11 a.m. The cyberattacks continued throughout the day and impacted different parts of the U.S., but no longer impacted SHU.

“As a result of this attack, many major Internet sites were inaccessible for periods of time on Friday, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), where many of Seton Hall University’s systems are located,” Landry said. “Seton Hall University services affected by this cyberattack included Okta, the University’s login service, our PirateNet portal, Office 365, Blackboard Learn and the Banner administrative system.”

Ethan James, a freshman business management and finance major, said that the cyberattack made it impossible for him to access study guides on Blackboard for two of his midterms. He said he became frustrated not only when he could not log in to Blackboard, but also when he could not access his Google Drive, where he keeps his school work.

“As a student who pays a lot of money to this school in order to be housed with necessities, including internet access, to not only live the college life, do homework, and relax, but also work, it was very frustrating,” James said.

He added that the cyberattack made him realize how important a strong, reliable internet connection is.

The attack was reportedly a DDoS that affects Internet of Things devices like webcams and routers, wired.com wrote. Once those devices were infected with malware, they began to flood the target with unwanted traffic.

ABC News reported that a group called New World Hackers claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter, but the claim was not verified by authorities.

John Shannon, a professor of Legal Studies at SHU, said that the average person is beginning to notice cyberattacks more because the attacks are becoming more aggressive. He said that people’s increasing reliance on the connectivity provided by the internet has made these attacks more impactful on people’s daily lives.

“They (cyberattacks) don’t only impact technology,” Shannon said. “Cyberattacks may be targeted at our networks and systems and our personal and professional lives rely on those networks and systems. When a DDoS attack like the one focused on Dyn brings down a DNS provider it essentially cuts off the internet’s address book and makes it impossible for most people to access the internet and all of the systems they rely on every day.”

Although Shannon said many people can be affected by a widescale cyberattack, he added that most people will never individually be targeted, but that there are different types of attacks that can potentially access personal information.

These individually targeted cyberattacks are possible, however, Landry said that this was not the case on Friday.

“While Friday’s cyberattack interrupted classes and business, there is little danger that this particular type of attack will expose student, faculty or employees’ personal data,” Landry said.

Students couldn’t have done much of anything to prevent Friday’s cyberattack, but Landry and Shannon said students can prevent individual cyberattacks by avoiding phishing scams and creating a secure, unique password that should never be used twice.

Ashley Turner can be reached at ashley.turner1@student.shu.edu.

Author: Ashley Turner

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