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The BBC has one of the most popular websites in the world, recent estimates suggests that it’s about 80 in the popularity stakes. Of course, the site is much more than a static HTML based site but in fact is capable of streaming thousands of the BBCs video and audio content in all sorts of formats. This means that it has one of the biggest and most advanced infrastructure behind it which normally means that the BBCs web presence is fast, stable and always available.
This however changed on the last Thursday of 2015 when all across the world people trying to access the site were greeted with the following message.
So what happened to the BBC site? Well the clue is in the message, referring to abnormal traffic – the BBC was being subjected to a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. This is a cyber based attack which directs thousands of clients to make repeated and simultaneous requests to a specific website with the intention of overloading the servers hosting the site. It’s actually quite a simple attack but can require a huge amount of resources to work effectively, basically it’s a battle of overwhelming the servers and bringing down the site.
Now of course it’s relatively simple to bring down a small website hosted on a simple shared server or a wordpress blog, but bringing down one of the world’s most sophisticated web sites takes a lot more resources that normal. There are not many organisations who would be capable of overloading the BBCs infrastructure. Certainly none of the possible hacking groups would be likely suspects and none of them have claimed responsibility either.
The reality is that the resources required to knock out the BBCs web presence even for a few hours is beyond most groups. The BBC is also a very real target simply because for many places across the world it represents one of the only sources of independent journalism. Even though many countries already restrict and filter access to journalism sites, there are certain states who are already suspected of more aggressive tactics. Many of the State sponsored DDOS attacks come from places like Russia, China and even North Korea. It is likely that the attack was politically motivated.