The number of web attacks which are not financially motivated is on the rise. "Welcome to the front lines of the 21st century information war", comments the Wall Street Journal about an Internet attack that took place on the FreeEurope Radio server. Altogether eight websites belonging to the broadcasting service were not accessible for several hours. Symptoms that firs-t seemed like a completely normal server failure turned out to be a calculated attack. More than 50,000 maliciously generated site calls per second forced the service to its knees.
The potential originator of this cyber attack:
Belarusian President Alexander Lukaschenko. The regime presumably wanted to prevent the transmission of an opposition report by using Hacktivism, i.e. politically motivated hacking. This should remind you of the end of the Soviet Union. Virtual attacks used to be carried out on radio and TV stations before the Internet became so popular. For example, the Soviets used to interfere with the transmission of content it wanted to suppress. Lukaschenko is considered to be an ardent fan of the USSR.
Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks have no remedy. The technique behind such attacks is always similar. In the case of a three-hour attack on the CNN website, for instance, Chinese hackers spread a specially programmed tool to those who took part in the protest, turning their computers into a "botnet".
At a pre-determined time, the participants simultaneously started something like a DDOS attack. The tool sent completely legitimate calls for a website. However, they were incredibly fast and in massive numbers. The CNN server couldn't process the flood of enquiries, and crashed.
At present there is no simple means of protection against these attacks. The American radio service solved its problem by simply limiting the number of enquiries it could accept from the Asian region. However, this only suppressed the problem till the attack was over and did not actually solve anything. As the rest of the world could easily call the website, bonafide visitors from China and India were locked out for hours on end.
Incidentally, Hacktivists who don't manage to motivate enough participants also indulge in such forms of attack. The Internet mafia can rent out their botnets for just $100 a day, perfect for conducting such political activities. DDoS attacks from botnets have most commonly been used for blackmailing. At first, a small show of strength will prove to the victim that their site can be thrown offline, and then money is demanded. If the to-be-victims don't accept the demands for payment, then their servers are bombarded and forced down for several days. For commercial sites, this can be a disaster. They stand to lose far more in profits if their customers can't access the sites anymore.