Denial of Service Attacks Remain Popular Tactic

Thursday, November 18, 2010

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Denial of Service (DoS) has often been used to as a tool send a message to the subjects of the attacks, and recent events indicate the use of the tactic to strategically promote the agendas of one group over those of another is on the upswing.

DoS is not an unnatural phenomena - as any user of Twitter can attest to on nearly a daily basis upon seeing the picture of the whale held aloft by a small flock of birds.

Simply put, when the number of simultaneous contacts exceeds a server's capacity to process the requests, the server becomes overloaded and thus ceases to perform for a period of time.

DoS downtime can also be inflicted in many ways, from an army of zombie machines infected with malware under the control of remote operators to organized campaigns where multiple users converge on a site in a coordinated effort.

The ease at which an attack can be undertaken, given the fact that the majority of servers deployed around the world are susceptible, has made the DoS tactic increasingly popular.

The motivation behind DoS attacks can vary from simple nuisances to those seeking to censor, extort funds, disable competitors, or advance political agendas.

Recent examples from 2010 include:

  • Operation Payback, working in conjunction with the shadowy coalition known only as Anonymous, has been stepping up attacks against anti-piracy groups

Tim Murphy, webmaster at the Free West Papua Campaign, one of the organizations targeted by recent DDoS attacks, emphasized the effectiveness that such a campaign can have against small, non-profit organizations given their lack of financial resources:

I have just talked with the people who fixed Survival International's problem with the same DDoS attack, BUT they want lots and lots of money to fix it, and FWPC is a poor organization. In addition to dealing with the DDoS we also need to mirror this video so that the attackers get the idea that "the Internet sees any censorship as damage and reroutes around it

It is clear the DoS attacks will continue to be a major problem, and only increase in frequency until such a time as the widespread vulnerability in server software is eliminated.

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