WikiLeaks FallOut: How Hackers Bring Down A Site Using LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon)

Internet is flooding with news of cyber attacks in retaliation for attempts to block the WikiLeaks website, which have already hit the websites of credit-card giants MasterCard and Visa and even Paypal. When it clear that most of those attacks are of denial-of-service (DDoS) type, not many know how the hackers (mind us calling them hactivists, rather) are bringing down huge sites like a pack of cards. The answer is LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon)!

WikiLeaks FallOut How Hackers Bring Down A Site Using LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon)

LOIC (“Low Orbit Ion Cannon”) is an application being used by 4Chan-affiliated hackers designed to—when used en masse by thousands of anonymous users – launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on websites. Like Visa.com and Mastercard.com, for instance.

– The weapon of choice is a piece of open source software named a “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (LOIC), which was originally developed to help Internet security experts test the vulnerability of a website to a DDoS attack. Now LOIC is available for download on the Internet.

– The LOIC can be controlled centrally by an administrator in an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, a type of computer chat room, which can seize control of a network of computers whose combined power is used in a DDoS attack.

– The attack is aimed at the target website and when the LOICs are activated they flood the website with a deluge of data requests at the same time.

– The DDoS attack prevents the overloaded server from responding to legitimate requests and slows down the website to a crawl or shuts it down totally.

– The attacks are coordinated in the IRC channel and on Thursday, around 3,000 people were active on the channel at one stage.

– The current situation has some historical parallels to a decade ago, when, in February, 2000, several of the biggest US e-commerce and media sites came under attack in denial-of-service attacks. Targets included Amazon.com, eBay, E-Trade, Buy.com and CNN, the news site. The ecommerce sites endured substantial losses during the outages, at a time when the Internet shopping phenomenon remained in its infancy.

This guest post is written by Pete Austin who is a regular writer on computer science courses and also writes for Guide to Online Schools.

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