An Introduction to Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

Wednesday, 4 December 2002, 12:22 PM EST

Recently, major news outlets reported that a coordinated attack designed to disable several of the Internet's root name servers had taken place. The attack, described as sophisticated and complex, is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS). Although no serious outages occurred, it was a hot topic in the security world - again. Again? Similar attacks first made headlines in February 2000. Although discussed in security circles for some time before that, this was the first prolonged example of a DDoS, and prevented legitimate traffic from reaching major sites for several hours. Yahoo, eBay, Buy.com, and CNN were but a few mjor sites who were inaccessible to their customers for extended periods of time. Now, almost three years later, can it be that we're still vulnerable? Unfortunately the answer is yes. This article will explain the concept of DDoS attacks, how they work, how to react if you become a target, and how the security community can work together to prevent them.

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