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The Day the Internet Broke

Published on November 4, 2016, at 1:05 p.m.
by Amelia Neumeister.

It finally happened. The internet broke, and no, Kim Kardashian wasn’t responsible for it.

What happened is actually pretty scary. Someone hacked Dyn, one of the United States’ main internet service providers, and shut down parts of the internet for a few hours. The shutdown was caused by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against Dyn, meaning a huge amount of fake internet traffic was sent to Dyn to flood certain websites in hopes of forcing it offline.

The day the internet broke

While not everyone in the country was affected by the breakdown, mostly just the eastern seaboard and Los Angeles, those affected were hit hard. The list of websites hit by the attack is lengthy, and the biggest sites included Netflix, Amazon, PayPal and Spotify — all websites used regularly by most Americans during the workday. This shutdown caused obvious problems, and most websites responded accordingly.

Spotify went to Twitter to communicate with its users how the company was working to fix the issue. Ironically, Twitter was also affected by the attack, so many were unable to see Spotify’s response.

When my friend texted a group message saying, “Twitter isn’t working,” I immediately went to Google to find out answers. This action on my part got me thinking: What would I have done if Google had been hit too? Would I go to a different website to look for answers? Or would I just stay in the dark about the news?

As a future public relations professional, I am curious about how organizations’ digital communications tactics will change based on this moment. The industry will have to change tactics in regards to using Twitter as a crisis communication tool simply because Twitter is now a website vulnerable to online attacks. While it wasn’t hacked, it was shut down temporarily.

Dyn, the attacked web-hosting site, published a statement on its blog. Dyn’s statement includes a timeline of the attacks, what its staff knows about them and a thank you to the “entire internet infrastructure community.” Dyn’s statement can be seen as an example of how an organization can communicate effectively in a crisis, specifically internet-based.

Dyn’s statement was great, but it was published on the company website, and most internet users have never even heard of Dyn. Bigger sites with heavier traffic like Amazon, Twitter and Spotify need to be prepared for an attack like this one in the future.

The day the internet broke

Such situations exemplify how public relations professionals — and the industry as a whole — need to be flexible and constantly evolving to fit the communication needs of their publics, and the world.


  1. Post comment

    When I heard about the internet hack, I never really thought of it from a PR perspective. But looking back, these companies really should have had a better crisis plan to keep their customers and users informed about their plans to fix the issues. Their customers were left without access to these sites or a reason for the error messages they were receiving. This would make a great case study as to how could companies inform their clients during a company wide black out. As far as informing the public about what happened after the situation was over, the Dyn’s report could have been shared over the variety of media outlets including those that went down. I would be interested to see what solutions our college could come up with if this was used as case study in a future course.


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