In early 2000 — ages ago in Internet time — some of the biggest names in e-commerce were brought to their knees by a brief but massive assault from a set of powerful computers hijacked by a glory-seeking young hacker. The assailant in that case, known online as Mafiaboy, was a high school student from a middle-class suburban area of Canada who was quickly arrested after bragging about his role in the attacks.
It wasn’t long before the antics from novice hackers like Mafiaboy were overshadowed by more discrete attacks from organized cyber criminal gangs, which began using these distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assaults to extort money from targeted businesses. Fast-forward to today, and although vanity DDoS attacks persist, somehow elements in the news media have begun conflating them with the term “cyberwar,” a vogue but still-squishy phrase that conjures notions of far more consequential, nation-state level conflicts.
If any readers have been living under a rock these last few weeks, I’m referring to the activities of Anonymous, an anarchic and leaderless collection of individuals that has directed attacks against anyone who dares inhibit or besmirch the activities of Wikileaks, an organization dedicated to exposing secret government documents. To date, the Web sites attacked by Anonymous include Amazon.com, EveryDNS.com, Mastercard.com, Paypal.com, and Visa.com, among others.
The rest of this article can be read at CSO Online.