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Slashdot struck by denial-of-service attacks

The "news for nerds" Web site popular among Linux fans falls victim to a well-timed series of hacker attacks similar to those that crippled sites in February.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Slashdot.org, the "news for nerds" Web site popular among Linux fans, fell victim to a series of hacker attacks for three days last week.

The site was taken down intermittently by a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Slashdot founder Rob Malda said today. The attacks were similar to those that crippled Yahoo, eBay, E*Trade, Amazon.com, the FBI and other sites in February.

The attacks were part of a triple witching at Slashdot. On top of the attacks, Slashdot had just moved to a new server, and the company was dealing with a Microsoft request to remove some postings by Slashdot readers that the software giant said violated its copyright.

"It was quite a week," Malda said. Despite the intermittent outages, Slashdot still received record traffic Friday and Saturday, he added.

Parent company Andover.Net has been going through access logs to try to trace the origin of the attacks. Finding the culprit will be difficult, though, given that the attacks were launched from bogus Internet addresses, Malda said.

The attacker or attackers timed the assault well, choosing a moment when Slashdot was vulnerable, he added. Because of the extremely high traffic and the move to new hardware and software, administrators had to double-check that there wasn't something wrong with their own systems.

"It took us a few hours until we were positive we were under attack," Malda said.

Though Slashdot's Web traffic is a key part of the revenues stream of Andover.Net, Malda didn't have an estimate of the financial difficulties caused by the attack.

"It's not quite the same level as eBay," he said. "We're not doing e-commerce. If eBay goes down six hours, however many thousands of auctions go down in those hours get ruined."

A DDoS attack How a denial of service attack worksfloods a target computer with information from a host of computers that already have been taken over by the attacker. The information saturates the target computer's network connection, making the computer inaccessible and often unresponsive.

Though DDoS attacks have settled down since earlier this year, new attack tools are emerging.

The fundamental structure of the Internet means that DDoS attacks are just another problem people will have to learn to live with, Malda said.

"Anybody who hasn't gone through it is probably vulnerable," he said. But repairs and updates are likely only temporary fixes. "Just as soon as you block something, I'm sure there's going to be something new."