12/24/2009

DDoS attack hobbles major sites, including Amazon

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

An attack directed at the DNS provider for some of the Internet’s larger e-commerce companies–including Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Expedia–took several Internet shopping sites offline Wednesday evening, two days before Christmas.

Neustar, the company that provides DNS services under the UltraDNS brand name, confirmed an attack took place Wednesday afternoon, taking out sites or rendering them extremely sluggish for about an hour. A representative who answered the customer support line said the attacks were directed against Neustar facilities in Palo Alto and San Jose, Calif., and Allen Goldberg, vice president of corporate communications for Neustar, confirmed that at about 4:45 p.m. PST, “our alarms went off.”

Goldberg said the company received a disproportionately high number of queries coming into the system, and analyzed it as an attack. Neustar deployed “a mitigation response” within minutes of the attack, he said, and brought matters under control within an hour. The response limited the problems to Northern California, he said.

In addition to the high-profile sites, dozens of smaller sites that rely upon Amazon for Web-hosting services were also taken down by the attack. Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services were affected by the problems, according to Jeff Barr, Amazon’s lead Web Evangelist, who retweeted a report to that effect without clarification and confirmed it in later tweets.

For a brief period Wednesday evening, “ultradns” was the top search term on Google, likely as frantic technicians at Web sites attempted to figure out what was going on with their sites.

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