With all due respect to the affected holiday shoppers in Northern California, yesterday's distributed denial-of-service attack on Amazon, Wal-Mart, and other sites could've been much worse.
Yesterday evening, those retailers' Web sites went down for about an hour, but only for Internet users in Northern California. Allen Goldberg, spokesman for Amazon's DNS provider Neustar, said the DDoS attack was identified in minutes and under control within an hour.
Of course, any attack on a major retail Web site is news, especially as people cram in last-minute shopping, but this particular attack was over quickly, had limited reach, and occurred at a time when I'd think most shoppers had either ordered presents already or bought them at brick-and-mortar stores.
This year, we've seen a few DDoS attacks with longer reach. Most notably, a wave of DDoS attacks knocked Twitter offline and caused days of problems for Facebook, Google's Blogger and LiveJournal. This assault was said to be politically motivated. In July, an e-mail worm launched attacks on dozens of U.S. and Korean Web sites, including government and banking sites. Two months earlier, a multiwave attack hit the Web site of a South Korean newspaper and an auction Web site. Amazon itself suffered a longer, broader attack earlier this year, along with Petco.com and Salesforce.com.
Certainly, some people's last-minute gifting plans were foiled by the most recent attacks, but I'm guessing that the cost of next-day shipping would wipe out any savings you'd get from Amazon over a brick-and-mortar store. And if you waited until the night of December 23 to order a Christmas gift you can only get online, maybe you deserve a little coal yourself.