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(After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Cyberattacks Cause Some Government Websites to Go Down

Tom Leighton.Tom Leighton. [Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology]Numerous government websites, which are a source of critical information, go offline, allegedly due in part to malicious attacks by computer hackers. [Akamai, 9/11/2015; Business Times, 9/24/2016] Many people seeking details about the terrorist attacks are turning to the Internet to find out what is happening, since it can quickly provide them with the information they want. However, numerous key websites, including government websites and news websites, go offline. [Washington Post, 9/11/2013; Akamai, 9/9/2014; Jewish Review of Books, 12/2014] The websites of the New York Times, CNN, and NBC News, for example, are unavailable between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. [Network World, 9/17/2001] Other websites that could provide valuable information that are affected include the websites of the FBI, the Red Cross, and American Airlines. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 209-210; Jewish Review of Books, 12/2014]
'Bad Actors' Launch Attacks on Key Websites - There are two reasons for the websites going down, according to Tom Leighton, chief scientist at the high-tech firm Akamai. One is simply that the increase in traffic caused by large numbers of people turning to the Internet for information is overloading them. [Akamai, 9/9/2014; Business Times, 9/24/2016] The website of the Washington Post, for example, is receiving 10 times its usual number of page views. [Network World, 9/17/2001] The other reason is that “bad actors” are coming out and committing cyberattacks. [Forbes, 3/25/2019] “The crazies came out and… attacked key websites to make it… even more likely that they would go down,” Leighton will later recall. Due to these cyberattacks, he will say, “a lot of government websites went down.” [Akamai, 9/9/2014]
FBI Website Goes Down - Among others, the website of the FBI goes offline. This is due to an increase in traffic, which may have been caused by deliberate attacks. The FBI “suspected at least some of [the extra traffic] was malicious—opportunistic hackers launching denial of service attacks and causing other mischief,” the Washington Post will report. [Washington Post, 9/11/2013] (A “distributed denial of service” attack involves thousands of compromised computers being used to target a website or server at the same time, thereby causing it to overload and become unavailable. [Business Times, 9/24/2016] )
Attacks Make It Harder to Get Information Out - Whether the identities of those launching the suspected cyberattacks will subsequently be determined, and whether the cyberattacks are connected to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is unstated. Leighton will only comment that he is unaware whether the cyberattacks were coordinated. [Akamai, 9/9/2014] All the same, a consequence of them is that “it became even harder to get the news [about the terrorist attacks] out,” Leighton will note. [Forbes, 3/25/2019] In addition to the problem of important websites going offline, people in New York and Washington, DC, experience communication problems today due to difficulties making phone calls, particularly cell phone calls (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/20/2001; SatNews, 10/19/2001; Verton, 2003, pp. 148-149]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, American Airlines, NBC News, American Red Cross, Tom Leighton, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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