FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Web Attacks on the Rise

As the Web becomes an ever more important part of business, it's also becoming an increasingly rough neighborhood. For instance, distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks -- the practice of flooding websites with so much incoming traffic that they can't operate properly -- increased by nearly 700% between 2004 and 2005, according to security firm Symantec. Attacked e-commerce sites can be knocked offline for days, losing millions in sales. These attacks are done not by teenage pranksters, but by e-commerce competitors (some from countries where cybercrime laws are lax), or customers who feel wronged. Symantec also notes the practice of using "bots" -- hacked "zombie" PCs that can be remote-controlled and directed to flood a site with traffic. Some hackers rent out the bots they control, acting as digital hit-men.

Meanwhile, "click fraud" in web advertising is on the rise, with scam artists learning how to manipulate ads from Google and others. One estimate claims that click fraud activity accounts for 20% of all Internet traffic, and costs advertisers up to $1 billion every year. Click fraud has become such a problem that it caused Standard & Poor to downgrade Google's stock to a "sell" rating in January. As with DDOS attacks, click fraud is conducted by sophisticated criminals who often use bots and zombies.