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NEW YORK - The websites for some major U.S. airports went down early Monday in an apparent coordinated denial-of-service attack. Flights were not affected, officials said.
A shadowy group of pro-Russian hackers that calls itself Killnet called for coordinated denial-of-service attacks on the targets. That means they flooded airport websites with so much traffic, overwhelming servers and knocking sites offline.
The group published a target list on its Telegram channel. For a brief period, the attacks affected the websites of more than a dozen airports, including New York's LaGuardia, Orlando International, LAX, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway, and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson. The airports reported the attacks to the FBI and TSA.
"We noticed this morning that the external website was down, and our IT and security people are in the process of investigating," Hartsfield-Jackson spokesperson Andrew Gobeil said. "There has been no impact on operations."
Justin Cappos, a computer security expert and professor at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, told FOX 5 NY's Chris Welch that this incident is a little bit like spray-painting a message on the side of a police station rather than popping the tires of squad cars.
"They're just trying to get some attention. Russia, so far with everything that's been happening with sanctions in Ukraine, has actually done surprisingly little in terms of cyberattacks on its normal targets," Cappos said. "And in a lot of other instances in the past, it was very aggressive about doing cyberattacks. And so I think in part, maybe this is just a way of them going and saying, ‘Hey, you know, we still have some capabilities here — and some of these groups that are affiliated with us, but maybe not directly under control of the Kremlin, are a little bit off the leash.'"
This is a reminder that Russia and Russian-backed hackers like this still have the capability and, in fact, could do even more.
Cappos said Killnet is a pro-Russian so-called hacktivist group but the extent of its connection to the Russian government isn't clear.
"How deep their ties are to the Kremlin and exactly who in their organization has ties and so on, I don't know," Cappos said. "But certainly if an organization goes after people that are pro a certain cause, when that cause calls things out or when that cause feels there's a reason to retaliate against them, then they're certainly ideologically linked and seem to follow marching orders."
Killnet also took responsibility last week for knocking several state government websites offline.
With The Associated Press.