By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-03-25 Print this article Print

: It can happen to you"> You might ask why you, who monopolized your industry or sued customers for using someone elses product, should be the target of a DDoS attack? You might as well ask why theres random street crime. The answer is that the Internet is a rough neighborhood, and even little guys have disgruntled former employees and customers who feel cheated, not to mention ex-spouses and competitors. Trust me, it really could happen.

Most Web sites dont have or need the resources that Microsoft or even The SCO Group put in theirs for normal business, and it doesnt take an army of zombied clients to bring them down. Just a few clients, focused on the job, can cause problems for a Web site. Froutan says that at his company theyve seen such attacks go on for days at a time. Experience with the MyDoom worms certainly bears that out.

At the Web-site end, you can get appliances such as devices from Webscreen that purport to stop such attacks. Theyre basically specialized firewalls, and theyre expensive (here I found a quote for a low-end box for $7,999). And even if they prevent the attack from reaching or disabling your Web server, the attack can still consume all your Internet bandwidth.

No matter who your provider is, you need to know whom you can call when something goes wrong on your site. A really good provider will be monitoring traffic to customer sites and will know that there is a problem before you do, but if youre technical enough you should try to keep a sense of what kind of traffic is hitting your site. Your providers facilities should be able to tell you that.

Unlike the Mafiaboy attacks, which were orchestrated on zombied university systems, most DDoS attacks come from consumer systems. MyDoom.A was preprogrammed to DDoS-specific sites, but lots of worms have backdoors that attackers can use to take control and launch whatever attacks they want. Im sure some attacks are actually malfunctioning programs, unintentionally whacking on a particular server.

Next page: What to do in the face of a DDoS attack.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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