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Watch: A Website Getting Hacked Into Oblivion

A dazzling visualization of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Watch: A Website Getting Hacked Into Oblivion

Over the last few years, as hacking has moved out of the shadowy corners of the web and into the mainstream, the world has become increasingly familiar with the tools and techniques involved. One of the ones you hear about most frequently is the DDoS, or distributed denial of service attack—not an attempt to hack a web site so much as bring it to its knees by swamping it with activity. Here’s what that looks like.

The clip shows a recent DDoS attack on VideoLAN, the software company responsible for the venerable VLC video player, as rendered by Logstalgia, an open source tool for visualizing web activity. As we see in this video overview, when things are running normally, Logstalgia shows requests bouncing across the screen to their desired location on the server, like a frenetic, multicolored game of Pong.

Here, however, it’s clear that things aren’t running normally. Instead of a steady flow of requests to all different pages on the server, we see a blazing, concentrated attack—around 200 new VLC download requests per second, according to the VideoLAN team.

For groups like Anonymous, denial of service attacks have long been a go-to tactic for meting out their controversial conception of justice on the Internet, but this clip gives us a nice visual for what’s actually going on. If the early Internet gave us the image of the solitary hacker—some lonely nerd meticulously working his way through layer after layer of a network’s security—here we get a look at a totally different, and increasingly common, type of digital disruption. Instead of slipping into the castle undetected, it’s the equivalent of hurling rocks at its walls until they fall. It’s pure brute force, devoid of much skill or subtlety but incredibly effective. And apparently, with the right visualization software, a mesmerizing sight to see.

[Hat Tip:]