WikiLeaks and the Cloud DDOS Strategy

I found the recent WikiLeaks saga to be fascinating. Never in history has the individual had so much power to collate and distribution sensitive
information, with the ability to embarrass governments around the world and put them into damage control. But for a cloud computing vendor like myself, this story added an interesting twist.

Within hours of releasing documents, the WikiLeaks servers were under heavy attack from patriotic individuals, and likely also governments, trying to stem the flow of information. It was a typical distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, which can usually shut-down an organization like WikiLeaks with ease.

Countering the problem

What surprised me about WikiLeaks is that they didn’t take the usual route of dealing with a DDOS attack by working with upsteam ISPs and traffic engineers to restrict the traffic approaching their servers. They realized that trying to stop an onslaught of traffic is both a political and technical challenge, and one that is likely to fail. Instead, they moved their services further into the cloud, distributing their content across the on-demand, readily billable and highly scalable Amazon EC2 infrastructure. It’s an excellent plan that realizes that you can avoid an attack by simply throwing more infrastructure at those trying to attack you.

Smart companies should look at the cloud as part of their DDOS mitigation strategy. It costs nothing to be prepared (Amazon EC2 charges are nil until you actually spin up the servers), provides infrastructure that can rapidly scale to meet the traffic challenge and provides you with a world-wide set of data-centers across which to spread the load.

[Yes, I know that WikiLeaks were eventually kicked off the Amazon EC2 infrastructure due to political wrangling by Senator Joe Liberman, but hopefully your organization isn’t that offside with the government that this should be a concern.

By Simon Elis

Simon Ellis is the owner of labslice.com LabSlice is a Virtual Lab Management solution powered by Amazon EC2.

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