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Rutgers networks crippled after Distributed Denial of Service attack

Rutgers University was hit with an hour-long Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack Sept. 6 during the first day of classes.  – Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez

Rutgers University was hit by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack for the first time since last winter on Tuesday afternoon.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) Telecommunications Division mitigated the attack, said University Director for IT Frank Reda in an email.

"The incident began at approximately 1:30 p.m. today and OIT restored access by 2 p.m. No data was compromised. Emails may have been delayed during this period, but no emails were lost," he said.

Emails sent through the Network Operations listserv confirmed that an outage occurred near 1:45 p.m. and ended by 2:44 p.m.

During the outage, users on Rutgers internet networks, including RUWireless, RUWireless_Secure and ResNet were unable to access many non-Rutgers websites, not including Facebook, Google and Yahoo. Similarly, students not on Rutgers networks, such as those off-campus, were unable to access Rutgers websites.

At roughly the same time as the outage began, a Twitter user who claimed responsibility for previous attacks surfaced on the social media website, commenting on the lack of internet. 

Over the last two years, Rutgers networks were subject to numerous Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, many of which crippled internet access and caused exams and assignments to be delayed. 

University Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Michele Norin said Rutgers expected attacks on networks in August.

"Those things will occur, attempts will be made, and our position is to try and react and try to prevent the disruption as quickly as we can," she said.

Rutgers has already added funding to the Office of Information Technology, Norin said. Part of it went to adding more staff to the office, allowing for a faster response time during attacks. 

The rest of the funding went toward hiring external services to help protect Rutgers from future attacks by mitigating the traffic, she said.

"We enlisted those services so that, for example the main website, if it were to be attacked, they could capture that attack traffic and it would be protected," she said. "We instituted some different tools to help us monitor and respond quickly when we see that there’s an attack."

OIT is also working on improving their communication on campus, she said.

"Between all of those things like a full-on attack, we were able to block more quickly or respond more quickly (to the most recent attacks)," she said in August. "There was still a little bit of disruption over the holidays."

Prior to yesterday's attack, Rutgers suffered from internet attacks over the 2015-16 winter break. Neither of those attacks lasted more than four days, but they disrupted final exams and lasted for longer.

"There is the continual risk that attempts are made," Norin said. "There’s no perfect science it, but at least we can zero in on those high volume areas (and) can try to at least be better position when we hit the cycles like the start of school."

Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering senior. He is the news editor of The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

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