Most know that the internet
teems with the high-tech equivalent of the petty crook; waiting to take
advantage of the unwitting. However, far more alarming than a malicious
teenager coding malware, in many ways, is the growing amount of nationalistic
attacks on the web. Many
of these attacks come from China, and, according to U.S. and British
armed forces and intelligence, are government-sponsored.
The attacks have occurred in the public sector-- on
the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and on government
contractors-- and now they're occurring in the private sector as
well. Last Thursday, CNN.com was targeted
by takedown attempts after it ran
coverage of pro-independence protest events in Tibet. CNN fought back
deploying countermeasures, but this yielded "web attrition" in the
form of its services being slow or unreachable to many in Asia.
While CNN states that the scale of problems due to its defensive measures were
relatively small, it also acknowledges that the incident was significant.
Said the network, "CNN took preventative measures to filter traffic in
response to attempts to disrupt our Web site. A small percentage of CNN.com
users in Asia are impacted. We do not know who is responsible, nor can we
confirm where it came from."
The site came under attack midday Thursday, when it began to experience
unexpected problems. The support staff found that by blocking visitors
from certain geographic locations it could mostly silence the attack. CNN
has not released exactly what locations it blocked, but its comments indicate
that they were in Asia. The blocking caused loss of service to some
legitimate Asian users, according to the news network.
CNN downplayed the loss-of-service, stating that it was almost
"imperceptible" and that "at no time" did the site go
down. By mid-morning Friday, normal operations had resumed.
While CNN has not officially announced who it suspects committed the attacks,
the Asian web community was reporting prior to the attacks that in China there
were calls for denial-of-service attacks on the site. The site's coverage
of unrest in Tibet and Olympic
protests riled many in the Chinese
government and many Chinese nationalists.
Chinese bloggers have heavily criticized CNN's coverage of pro-independence
movements in Tibet as being "unfair". CNN says these
claims are ridiculous and states, "CNN's reputation is based on reporting
global news accurately and impartially, while our coverage through the use of
words, images or video always reflects a wide range of opinions and points of
view on every story."
For those unfamiliar, a denial
of service attack works by an attacker using large groups of computers
which they control to send numerous service requests to a website.
Websites can only cope with a certain level of traffic, and at a certain point,
the site will become slow and, often, inaccessible.