On the morning of October 21 parts of the internet went down. That’s right, the internet.

The trouble began on the East Coast and quickly spread across the country and even reached Europe. No culprit has been found yet, but we know what method they used: A DDoS attack. Wait, what? A DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack is a flood of internet traffic that overloads the bandwidth and ultimately makes the targeted site inaccessible.

Several major sites were unable to be reached, including Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Soundcloud, and even Twitter.

The hackers managed to do this by using other people’s webcams, DVRs, home routers, and even thermostats that are connected to the internet (maybe even yours) to create this traffic flood.

These devices had infected software that allowed the hackers to access them and target specific websites. Yes, hackers turned your camcorder into a robot and made it do things. That’s not creepy at all.

Even though internet-connected devices were used without people’s knowledge, it’s never a good feeling to know your tech is vulnerable…but it doesn’t have to be.

There are ways to protect yourself from the malware used by the hackers:

1. Don’t use the default settings. No joke, hackers can use a piece of code to search for any internet-connected devices that still use the factory-default settings—and then get in. Update your login and passwords on every internet-connected device you might own.

2. Install automatic updates. We all forget to take the time to manually load software updates to our devices. Make your life easier –and safer—by setting them to automatically update. You can rest easy knowing every device in your home has the latest security patches and fixes.

3. Reboot often. Restarting your devices can remove malware from memory…but remember, this is only a Band-Aid. As soon as they’re back on, they could get infected with new malware.

4. Add a layer of security on your home network. Antivirus software sits on your computer, but can’t protect your other devices. But, services like TDS’ Hacker Alert, are a whole different animal. It will actually monitor internet traffic and catch security threats that baseline antivirus software might miss. In other words, your smart TV won’t be used to shut down your favorite sites.

With the number of connected devices only increasing, chances are, DDoS attacks will be on the rise. Stay safe out there!

For more information on Hacker Alert, visit: tdstelecom.com/HackerAlert

Image credit: Asim18

mike-wantaGuest blogger: Michael Wanta
Michael is an intern at TDS, tennis coach at Edgewood College, and also a graduate student studying sustainability and business. In his spare time, he plays music, does open mics, and reads (a lot).

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