Rutgers network faces online attack during registration period


A Distributed Denial of Service attack was unleashed on the Rutgers computer network on Nov. 19 around 10 p.m., the night when first-year students were waiting to register for spring classes, according to Frank Reda, director of the Office of Information Technology. 

Reda and the OIT determined that about 40,000 bots — web software that simulates a real person online — flooded the Rutgers network. The bots simulated the exact situation the Rutgers network would have undergone, where there are significantly more users on the network than usual. 

The bots originated mostly from Eastern Europe and China, which is more or less par for the course with a DDoS attack. Bots are usually based in countries that have less strict regulation on spam-tactics than the U.S., where suspicious Internet traffic is more tightly monitored. 

The additional traffic can slow down or even entirely cripple a network, which buckles under a heavier than usual load, Reda said. Downtime can last for minutes or hours depending on the severity of the attack, the size of the network and the reaction speed of security teams like OIT. 

IT staff was already on call, anticipating the traditional rush of traffic while Rutgers students tried to register for classes. 

The attack came at a time when the IT staff was undoubtedly expecting heavier-than-usual traffic, but a serious DDoS attack of this nature was presumably far more traffic than IT staff anticipated.

There are multiple types of DDoS attacks, but Reda said the attack on Rutgers saw the network saturated with external communications requests, a common tactic for overloading networks.

Reda said the Rutgers infrastructure was not harmed by the attack, and the event did not cause any financial damage to the University or its IT systems. 

Reda said OIT and Rutgers do not yet know who planned the attack. The incident has been reported to law enforcement officials, who are following up with an investigation. 


Tyler Gold

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