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Internet outage in Germany blamed on failed botnet attack

Deutsche Telekom says 900,000 customers were affected by the attack, the second such offensive in two months.

Cyber Attack Crime
Moment Editorial/Getty Images

A failed attempt to hijack consumer routers is being blamed for network outages that left hundreds of thousands of people in Germany without internet service this weekend.

Around 900,000 of Deutsche Telekom's 20 million network customers were affected by the outages, which began Sunday and lingered into Monday, the German telecommunications giant said in a statement. The attack was designed to quietly recruit the devices for a wider offensive, the second such large-scale attack on internet-connected devices in little more than a month, the company said.

"The attack attempted to infect routers with a malware but failed, which caused crashes or restrictions for 4 [percent] to 5 percent of all routers," the company said in a statement. "This led to a restricted use of Deutsche Telekom services for affected customers."

The company said it is rolling out a software update to fix the issue. It also recommended that customers temporarily disconnect their routers from their power source to reboot them free of the malware.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the origin of the attack remains unknown as investigators continue to examine the incident. She also cautioned that people should expect similar disruptions down the road. "Such attacks are a part of everyday life and people have to get used to them," Merkel said, according to a Reuters report.

A similar attack occurred in late October, when hackers used what's known as a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) -- conscripting hordes of internet-connected devices like computers, routers and security cameras into a botnet that rendered dozens of popular websites inaccessible for several hours.

First published November 28 at 5:30 p.m. PT.
Updated November 29 at 7:13 a.m. PT: Added comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.