Storage

Wikileaks Attacks Prove the Cloud Is Reliable

It's a strange world. When Amazon Web Services booted Wikileaks off its servers last week, many people (including me) said it raised significant questions about the rush into cloud services.

However, in a curious way, it's turned out very well for Amazon. The decentralized Operation Payback hacking group attempted to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against Amazon...and failed. In doing so, they proved that Amazon has the resources to cope, and thereby bolstered the reputation of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides Amazon.com's backbone.

In short, if you want an ultra-reliable cloud service that will resist a significant hack attack, then AWS is for you; Operation Payback has just proved it.

A posting on the now-suspended AnonOpsNet Twitter account read: "We cannot attack Amazon, currently. The previous schedule was to do so, but we don't have enough forces."

AWS had an uncharacteristic outage the other day, but that was apparently down to hardware failure. We'll have to take Amazon's word for that--although it seems that if practically any site goes offline for any reason, commentators are keen to find a connection with Wikileaks, however tenuous.

When referring to "forces," the AnonOpsNet group is referring to individuals who have downloaded and run the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) software, which rapidly bombards a Website with requests. Combined with many other users, these requests push the site to its limits and sometimes take it offline. LOIC is ostensibly designed to stress test networks but can be misused easily. Modern Web servers and routing hardware is built to resist DDoS strikes, but there's little that can be done against massive attacks.

Anonymous saw a number of new recruits to its fold in the wake of major organizations withdrawing resources from Wikileaks, and the attacks taking place now are among the largest and most organized ever seen. Sites that have been targeted include Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, MoneyBookers.com, Tableau Software, Amazon.com and PostFinance, a Swiss financial institution.

Anonymous has also announced a wave of "fax bombing," whereby the fax machines of undesirable corporations are sent hundreds of messages. The goal is partly to use up the machine's toner but mostly to cause disruption.

These are very interesting times for the Internet, and the rulebook we once all though sacrosanct is being rewritten subtly. As strange as it sounds, cloud computing might just be proving itself at precisely the moment when it needs to.

If you intend to launch a Website, then hosting your files with a service like AWS might make a lot of sense, especially if hack attacks might be a concern (for example, if you target goods and services at certain sectors of the Internet community). Indeed, at the moment, the cloud may well be the best solution for avoiding DDoS attacks.

Keir Thomas has been writing about computing since the last century, and more recently has written several best-selling books. You can learn more about him at http://keirthomas.com and his Twitter feed is @keirthomas.

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