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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Accountability, Responsibility, And Denial Of Service Attacks
February 11th, 2000

Unless you have been living under a rock of late, and even then that rock would have to be at the bottom of at least a medium size body of water, you have heard all about the attacks on several top Internet sites. Yahoo!, eBay, CNN,,, E*Trade, and Datek were all victims of what is called a Denial of Service attack. A Denial of Service attack is an effort by one party to flood a web server with so many bogus requests for information that the server bogs down. This results in legitimate requests for information from real web surfers being ignored. If you can't break into it or bring it down, you can at least deny its services to others.

The media has flooded the airwaves and wires with their own bogus information in response to this situation. Mainstream and tech outlets latched on to this story like the very leeches that caused the problem in the first place. The first wave was about hacker attacks, the second wave concerned how these sites were being brought to a standstill and how much money was being lost, and the third was all about explanations on how the networks weren't being actually broken into, but were instead suffering from DoS attacks. A tabloid/doomsday/festival-like air was present in many of the stories I saw or read on the subject. This kind of publicity is just what the punks perpetrating the attack wanted.

Then again, since no demands or other statements were made in relation to these attacks, it is possible that what we experienced was merely a dry run for some upcoming "real thing" planned later, and not a cry for attention. That would be interesting, I suppose. It is somewhat ironic that another leech setting off a bomb on Wall Street was what finally drove the story off the virtual front pages.

Wait, a sudden flash of insight. Perhaps it was the government trying to cause enough of a scare to allow them to get more invasive search and seizure policies in place.

Just kidding.

You may have noticed that The Mac Observer did not cover these attacks very much. Aside from a mention in The Apple Stock Watch, this particular column, and some links at MacOS News Around The Web, we have been fairly silent on the issue. For the life of me I don't understand the kind of person who feels they have the right to shut someone else's computer down. This is related to the same sort of warped mentality from the less malignant — but still ethically challenged — hacking where people break into someone else's computer just to see if they can. Trespassing is the essence of "hacking," though the term originally referred to clever programming. Hacking today tends to mean either breaking into another computer or denying access to or from a computer. It's all about getting your kicks or making your statement at the expense of others. A note to all the self-righteous leeches who may be getting their feathers ruffled: don't bother writing to me trying to justify your pathetic hobby. My bottom line is that your rights end where another's begin. If you do not understand that, you are either too young, too inexperienced, or too stupid to talk to me. Seriously.

I won't even get on the topic of the type of scum creating computer viruses.

There has been a decline in ethics and integrity for many years, if indeed they were ever really present (it is a well-documented fact that everyone thinks "things" were better when they were young, when in fact, "things" were most likely the same). Perhaps integrity has never been the norm, though I do not think this to be the case. There are exceptions to this rule of course.

Accountability is the issue. People will not accept responsibility for their own actions or mistakes. Worse yet, many people do not want others to have to take responsibility for theirs. Even worse are those who try to take credit for the accomplishments or failures of others. These people are the worst in that they steal the benefits due to the real "doers" or support those that can not do for themselves. Too often we make excuses for each other, blaming circumstances or the environment for the crimes and sins committed. This is a terrible disease reliant upon its "victims" for its very existence. If you do not expect others to be responsible, then perhaps they will not expect you to be responsible in return, a vicious partnership of the worst kind. I take great pride in knowing that I am fully responsible for every action I have ever made, including the bad ones.

Back to the journalistic aspect of this. The job of the news media is to report the news. In this case, the news media, and even this very editorial, is doing the cyber-terrorist's/prankster's/criminal's work for them by spreading their notoriety. It is an issue that I have always been torn on. Give the bad guys the publicity they crave, and you only encourage more such behavior, thus becoming part of the problem. Suppress the information and you become a censor, also a part of the problem. This is not something I would chalk up in the "win-win" category.

Despite my whining about the lack of ethics and the general downtrend in our culture's approach to life, this kind of event is likely to become nothing but more common. Put up the walls, and there will always be someone who is going to try and break them down or get through them. Usually one or more of them will succeed, given enough time. It has been going on for thousands of years, and I personally imagine it will continue to go on for the next many thousands. I hope to be proven wrong on this. :-)

This doesn't have a lot to do with Mac except that I think it is a safe bet that none of the people involved in the attacks were using Macs. This includes the perpetrators and their unknowing dupes who assisted by unwittingly having the trojan horse applications on their computers that helped spread the attack.

A is A.

Your comments are welcomed.

began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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