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Internet Outage Shows How Sophisticated Attacks Can Target Your Home

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Last week's internet outages began in the Eastern United States and spread to other parts of the country, South America and Europe. NBC News Last week's internet outages began in the Eastern United States and spread to other parts of the country, South America and Europe. NBC News

Cyber crime has moved closer to home than ever. The cyber attack that slowed many popular websites to a crawl last week is attracting new scrutiny to the security of the so-called "Internet of Things."

The attack last week used a new type of malware that takes control of tens of millions of personal devices connected to the internet — including home routers, baby monitors and cameras — without their owners' knowledge.

It was aimed squarely at Dyn, a New Hampshire tech company that monitors and routes traffic for major internet companies, including Airbnb, Etsy, Spotify and Twitter and popular news sites like The New York Times, The Financial Times and CNBC.com.

The co-opted smart devices then worked in concert to overwhelm Dyn's systems with junk traffic, crippling access to their clients' sites for several hours.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the attack.

In a interview Sunday at Dyn headquarters, Chief Strategy Officer Kyle York called the attack "absolutely unprecedented."

"What we discovered [was that] it was a part of an botnet attack called the Mirai botnet, which basically goes into folks' homes and takes over Internet of Things devices and literally turns them into attack vectors," York said.

A senior U.S. intelligence official and other cyber experts told NBC News that the attack was likely not to have been state-sponsored.

Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, a Chinese component manufacture whose technology is used in digital video recorders and cameras, said in an email to tech industry publications Sunday that the attack appeared to have exploited security vulnerabilities involving weak default passwords in its products.

That doesn't ease the minds of millions of people who connect to the Internet of Things (often abbreviated as IoT) on a daily basis.

Kari Giordano's family uses smart devices for cameras, lights, music and thermostats and the garage door.

"It's like a contradiction, because you're doing something to keep yourself safe and you're opening yourself up to who knows what," Giordano said. "It's disconcerting. It's frightening, especially with kids."

Cyber attacks on smart-home devices are expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. According to Gartner, a technology research company, an estimated 6.4 billion connected devices were in use last year. By 2020, that number is expected to more than triple to 20.8 billion devices.

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