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Is massive DNS hack responsible for Charter Internet outage?

Charter Communications internet outage
Credit: DownDetector

Charter Communications has suffered major Internet outages across the U.S. Customers are reporting that changing the DNS IP addresses have restored service, fueling speculation that the company was a victim of a massive DNS hack.

Charter Communications, the fourth largest cable operator in the U.S., suffered major internet outages that some news outlets reported to be nationwide. Charter offers Internet to “more than 27.6 million customers in 29 states.” If you zoom out on the map, then you see why it appears to be a nationwide outage.

Many customers took to DownDetector, which peaked at 7,982 reports of being down within the last 24 hours and over 8,000 on August 23. For today, August 24, the outage heat map shows reports of Charter still being down in “Homewood, St. Louis, Madison, Asheville, Plant City, Greenville, Ballwin, Athens, Chicago, and Birmingham.” On Saturday, Charter was reportedly also down in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

Charter internet outages as of August 24 DownDetector.

On DownDetector, as well as on Reddit, some customers said that changing the DNS servers to Google’s public DNS IP addresses of 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 for IPv4, or 2001:4860:4860::8888 and 2001:4860:4860::8844 for IPv6 fixed their problems. Some people claimed that didn’t work, but most comments claim that changing the DNS restored their Internet. People who are not fans of Google reportedly changed their DNS to OpenDNS IPs of 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220 to restore service.

Charter was bombarded with so many complaint calls that many customers were greeted with a busy signal. Reddit commenter Xoferif09 claimed, “My brother works for charter in St. Louis. He said their call queue was full at 1k calls and their voicemail was full. Charter is freaking out and the customers are going nuts.”

Other aggravated customers looked to Charter’s social media accounts to find out what was causing the Internet outage. However, Charter may have bungled the situation by not commenting upon the outage at all. Charter last tweeted about The Simpsons, a marathon consisting of all 552 episodes airing in a row. Charter’s Facebook page also didn’t address the outage, but irate customers still took to the comment section of the last post to express their outrage.

Various local news outlets reported on the outage, with spokespeople claiming the net was down in Missouri and Illinois, in Minnesota and the Carolinas. The company at first only admitted to "investigating the incident.” Some customers have complained of having spotty Internet connectivity for days.

Then late Saturday, Charter told the Associated Press that it “was aware of some customers experiencing Internet outages across its service area. Charter spokeswoman Kim Haas says the company is working to restore service and says the cause is unknown. She said the issues were ‘intermittent across parts of our footprint’."

Meanwhile, a Charter customer in North Carolina claimed that during a support phone call, a Charter representative confirmed the company’s DNS servers had been hacked. Further speculation pointed at ISIS, or hackers from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as the party responsible.

Charter may not want to admit to being a victim of a DNS hack; perhaps that is not the root cause. But whatever the cause, ignoring the outage situation via the company’s social media accounts is a giant FAIL.

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