In the early morning hours today, the Twitter website was attacked by unknown web assailants with a flood of requests or "hits" on their domain. This made the site unavailable for legitimate users and caused an outage of several hours. This form of attack is known as a "Distributed Denial of Service" attack and is not new to Internet users or website administrators.
This form of attack, which dates back a decade or so, has become a favored form of disruption both malicious and political in nature. Sites, big and small, have fallen victim to DDOS attacks. Examples include big brand name online retailers, news and government sites. For those on the inside of a corporate web admin department, defense against these attacks is part of the daily arsenal. Just a few weeks ago, the US Department of Defense sent out a request for commercial products that can alert the admin staff of a distributed DOS attack within 5 minutes of the event.
The distributed DOS attack acquired its name due to the voluminous nature of the pings on the victim site. In the original DOS days, the work of pinging a domain over and over might have been from a single hacker or a small team of hackers. By using tools or networks of infected computers, the hacker can now summon the distributed power of hundreds or thousands of machines to slam the victim site with domain requests, overloading the routers and servers and effectively shutting the site down.
It's often the case that DDOS attacks come from computers infected with bots, turning them into Zombie computers doing their cybercriminal's bidding. To ensure your computer remains safe from becoming a Zombie, here are some tried and true tips from Symantec's Norton product team:
- Run a good internet security suite. (We're partial to Norton Internet Security and Norton 360.)
- Keep your computer updated with the latest patches and updates.
- Don't use "free" security scans that pop up on many websites. All too often these are fake, using scare tactics to try to get you to purchase their "full" service.
- Back up your computer.
- Check your bank and credit card accounts to make sure that all your transactions are legitimate.