What are DDoS attacks and what do they have to do with Wikileaks? Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the year, the Wikileaks ‘cablegate' furore has dominated headlines since the first diplomatic communiqués hit the newsstands in November. And the story is now developing rapidly.
With the arrest of founder Julian Assange and a number of companies now actively blocking Wikileaks in various ways, the outcry we're seeing from the online community is perhaps inevitable.
Numerous websites have seen themselves targeted by DDoS attacks. But what is a DDoS attack? Well, you could describe it as 'bombarding' or 'flooding' or various other 'ings', but a simple analogy does the job quite well.
Rather than saying it is like someone breaking into a shop, look at it as a load of people standing outside a shop door stopping anyone else from getting in. Essentially, a DDoS attack floods a particular site with such a level of traffic at one specific time that the servers it is hosted on crumple under the pressure, bringing the site down. As a side note, the attacks are illegal.
MasterCard, Visa, Amazon, PayPal and a number of other companies perceived as 'acting against' Wikileaks have been attacked in this way. As a consequence, some of them went offline under the sheer quantity of traffic.
It certainly opens up an interesting debate; are the websites that are preventing people from viewing Wikileaks and even donating to the site acting unreasonably? Are Wikileaks breaking the law? And if so, are all the other media organisations publishing the diplomatic cables also breaking the law? Such is the unprecedented nature of this story, it doesn't look like we're close to getting any answers.
And there's now a very complex multi-way tug of war going on. Wikileaks, big business, government, hackers, social media; it truly is an example of just how influential technology can be, and the ways in which it can make such stark changes in such a very short space of time.
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