What does DDoS stand for?

Doctor of Dental and Orthodontic Surgery.

Why would dentists attack Twitter?

It wasn’t flossing enough.

Are you going to be serious?

Yeah, okay: let’s try that for a while.

Harrumph. What does DDoS stand for?

Distributed Denial of Service.

And what does that mean?

Sorry, folks: internet’s closed. Moose up front should’ve told ya.

All of it?

A lot. Way too much. Paypal, Amazon, Spotify. Twitter was down for hours; no one could call any journalists “kike” or “cunt” for hours. And Reddit was down.

Good.

Yeah, but it’s the principle of the thing.

I guess. Now, what is a DDoS?

Imagine a pizza place. Calls are coming in, pies are going out. Sometimes it gets real busy, and the owner doesn’t have time to grab his delivery guys’ asses. (Pizzerias are the most ass-grabby of any non-sexual business. Brother on the Dead and several Cousins on the Dead worked at the same joint in New Jersey while we were all growing up, and it was non-stop forced Italian homoeroticism: BotD would come home after a shift and there would be flour handprints on his ass.)

You digressed.

I do that. Anyway: pizza place, calls coming in, pies going out. BUT, if too many people call at once, then the phone line jams up and no one can get through; all work stops. You don’t have to get into a location (actual or virtual) to shut it down: block the door, and commerce ceases.

A website is not a pizza place with one phone line and one guy answering the phone.

No, of course not. We’re still in the pizzeria analogy: website can handle exponentially more calls, and send out a proportional amount of pies. Just you hitting redial on your phone isn’t going to block up the line. You’d need all your friends to be calling the place at the same time, hitting redial as soon as they heard the busy signal.

So there are a lot of hackers?

No. We leave the pizza place.

But now I’m hungry.

Shh, I’m explaining things. To take down a website with a DDoS, especially a big site, you need lots and lots of computers, not lots and lots of hackers. In fact, the less humans involved, the better. You need to make yourself a zombie army.

This is starting to sound awful.

It is! What you would do is go phishing.

The band?

Obvious joke. So: you send out millions of e-mails that look identical to Twitter or Amazon or whatever. You just need enough people to click on whatever link you include, which you make look like an actual Twitter or Amazon address (to the layperson). Clicking on that link (or sometimes just opening the e-mail) implants a Trojan Horse into your system. Thus, you have a zombie army.

And then when it’s time to attack…

…you activate all your zombies and they start pinging the address you’ve chosen, thousands of times a second apiece. Too many people calling for pizza, so now no one gets pizza.

This is officially awful.

Oh, we haven’t gotten to the best part: the zombies don’t know they’re zombies. It’s rather likely that a guy trying, and failing, to get on the internet today was shutting it down himself.

Aren’t there supposed to be security systems? Firewalls and malware checkers and bullshit like that?

Of course. The good guys are really smart, too, and your home computer is as safe as it can be made. But people are idiots and disable their firewalls, or click on sketchy bullshit, or stream sporting events from Latvian mirror sites.

Yeah, people are dumb.

This one isn’t all people’s fault, though. Wait, no: it is, but not in the way I said in the last answer. This attack was done partially through the much-vaunted Internet of Things.

Are we still doing that?

Apparently. We hooked all the baby monitors and fridges and thermostats to the web.

Why?

We could.

Thank God there’s no cautionary tales about doing things just because you can in literature, art, mythology, music, film, teevee, poetry, or every history book.

I know, right?

Explain further.

After Garcia died, but before the Grateful Deads stopped talking to one another, there was a tour–

Not Furthur.

Gotcha. You know who employs some of the best computer security people in the world?

Who?

Not the Chinese company you bought your WiFi-enabled alarm clock from, I’ll tell you that.

So someone weaponized smart-thermostats and took down the American internet?

In so many words.

Do we know who did it?

Nyet.

I’m shocked.

Da, tovarische.