Business at some of the web’s biggest names was disrupted Friday as part of the Internet’s infrastructure — a domain name system provider — came under cyber attack, and experts say that this could become the new normal.
Outages like these — which affected Amazon, PayPal, Twitter, Etsy and Pinterest and others — are “a fact of doing business online,” said Adam Levin, who is chairman and founder of data and identity protection firm IDT911 and author of “Swiped.” “The convenience of having an operation online that anyone from anywhere can reach comes with the dangers that anyone can get to it.”
This attack was particularly damaging as it wasn’t focused on a specific domain, but rather popular DNS provider Dyn, said ZScaler chief information security officer Michel Sutton. “Given the amount of commerce done over the Internet today, it is not surprising that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is already investigating the attack.”
It will take a long time before the full economic impact of an attack like this can be calculated, said Forrester analyst Christopher McClean, who researches risk management.
McClean said that multiple portions of the e-commerce ecosystem were affected, such as the ability to pay on some of these web sites, which either became very slow or entirely unavailable for a number of hours.
“All these retail companies will have a way to track dollars per hour [that were lost] per site,” McClean said. “For some, it could be a small blip, but for a company like Twitter or Amazon, that could be very substantial.”
To combat an attack like this, a company could pay for backup DNS services, he said, although it did not appear that any of the companies that fell victim on Friday’s attack did.
When contacted by WWD, multiple e-commerce retailers and web platforms declined to comment on the issue, citing security concerns and the sensitivity of the issue. “When you see sites like Amazon and Etsy and PayPal and Airbnb and the news organizations go down, it certainly elevates the fear factor and makes people unsettled,” Levin said. “It should make every company extremely nervous.”
He called it a form of economic terrorism, adding that retailers need to “step up their game” and that cybersecurity has not been given enough focus during the election cycle. As a precautionary measure to potential economic losses, businesses can buy cyber liability insurance or business disruption insurance.
“We have a long way to go when it comes to Internet security,” Levin said. “This is the new world, but maybe today moves us further along in this issue.”