Mission: Total Overload

Investigators and computer-security experts aren't certain how the attacks were carried out, but the hackers likely used a variation of a so-called smurf assault like this:

1. The hacker scans the Internet for vulnerable 'server' or 'host' computers operated by businesses and universities.

2. The hacker then breaks into the weak computers and secretly stashes a 'slave' software program that will await his instructions to begin the attack.

3. He issues the signal and the slaves begin to broadcast a 'ping' request to their locally connected computers, asking whether they are 'alive,' that is, online and working.

4. Their replies aren't directed back to the hacker; instead, the hacker forges the 'return address,' directing replies to the ultimate victim, in this case, Amazon.com.

5. Amazon.com is so flooded with bogus replies from hundreds, if not thousands, of machines that legitimate attempts to get through never make it to the victimized site.

Last week's cybervandals will be difficult to nab. They could have mounted the assualts from anywhere in the world. And they used multiple computers belonging to others to cover their tracks.

Mission: Total Overload | News