Netflix hacked? How does this happen?


From an apparent breakdown in relationships between Sony and Starz to downtime on Father’s Day from an apparent Netflix hack, the popular video rental site has been having a bit of a PR problem lately.

Check out a very small sample of some of the Tweets going out over the past 10 hours.

I can’t access @Netflix. I’m not… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now? Panic is setting in.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

#movies Sony movies pulled from Netflix streaming service than a minute ago via Favorite Retweet Reply

If people understood how things worked at all, they wouldn’t be such jerks when a huge site like #Netflix went down for a couple hrs.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

Netflix is not down because of cloud. Cloud is down because of Netflix!less than a minute ago via Mobile Web Favorite Retweet Reply

Even #Netflix can fail. Netflix Website And Streaming Services Go Down by @alexialess than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

Netflix reportedly down for many than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Netflix is down. Everyone panic.less than a minute ago via HootSuite Favorite Retweet Reply

#netflix is down. expect birth spike in 9 months.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Even as we write this, Netflix appears to be coming back online.

So what happened?

Well, the first scenario is quite outside the hacker/scalability arena.

Netflix can’t be responsible for the issues between Sony and Starz, and did the only thing it really could do: Jump on the situation early:

“You may have noticed that Sony movies through StarzPlay are not currently available to watch instantly . . . This is the result of a temporary contract issue between Sony and Starz and, while these two valued partners work through their differences, we hope you are enjoying the wide variety of new movies and TV shows added daily.”

- Netflix posted on its blog referring to breakdown in streaming of Sony movies.

Good for them for jumping on that mess early.

But what about this seeming downtime site wide from an apparent hacker attack?

First, there is no hard evidence that this is or was caused by a hacker group.

Netflix just said this:

Our engineers are working hard to bring the site and ability to watch instantly back up as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and, again we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Hopefully, once things get straightened out, Netflix will release more information about what actually happened.

Some are speculating that it’s the hacker group LulzSec, but we don’t think so.

If Lulzsec were responsible, we’d expect to see them claim responsibility. Furthermore, we’d expect the attack to be a breach of security attack in which the group discovered a way into Netflix’s user database. This would prompt Netflix to shut down the entire site, causing outages for everyone – not just some people.

If this is, in fact, an attack it appears to be a DDOS attack in which a group hammers a certain website with billions of requests, overloading the servers’ ability to serve web pages.

That would cause some requests to get through and others to fail.

Still, this could simply be an in-house engineering problem, but that seems equally as implausible.

Netflix was one of the few cloud-based companies to go unscathed through the Amazon Web Services meltdown a few months ago. The company has historically been one of the most technologically sound and reliable sites online.

Now, everyone makes mistakes and this could be the result of one of those mistakes, but Netflix has been an example of reliability and scalability over the years, so it will be interesting to see what the official reason for the problems is.

About Cody Swann

Cody Swann is an entrepreneur, developer, strategist, banged up ex-football walk-on, retired body builder and former journalist born and raised in South Florida. He currently splits his time between his hometown of Stuart, FL and Los Angeles, CA. Cody founded Gunner Technology, a highly sought after digital agency, specializing in helping companies maximize profits through custom web development, technology efficiencies, social media strategy and search engine marketing. As a manager and developer at ESPN for nearly six years, Cody led development and vision for two of ESPN’s most popular online features: Sports Scoreboards and GameCasts. Additionally Cody oversaw all aspects of MyESPN and ESPN’s social network, ESPN Fan Profiles. Cody worked with Technology, Editorial, Sales, Marketing and relevant business stakeholders to mold ESPN’s social media strategy, develop custom applications for it and execute it. Under his direction, ESPN successfully ported large portions of its core product from a proprietary Java stack to an open source Ruby on Rails stack, capable of standing up and performing under the tremendous load world's most popular sports site delivers. Cody began forging his technological knowledge more than 10 years ago, developing and designing websites in college. His development work has included web development, web design, content writing, digital photography and digital video production for award-winning sites like, and He has helped set digital strategy and direction for companies in the New York Times Regional Newspaper group, ESPN, ABC and Disney. He is a recognized expert in web development, social media strategy, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, analytics tracking and business planning. He has worked with large interactive media companies to small and medium sized businesses. Cody motivates and inspires creative teams to deliver superb, polished work under tight deadlines.

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