A SMALL and unexpected pleasure of following this week’s powerful denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Spamhaus, a European spam-fighting charity, was reading observers’ increasingly imaginative efforts to communicate what precisely DDoS is.
Hackers that launch a denial-of-service assault instruct thousands of hijacked computers to flood a target’s servers with nuisance traffic, blocking or slowing the passage of genuine users who want to connect. The International Business Times employed a popular image, which it attributed to Graham Cluley of Sophos, a security firm: “Imagine 15 fat men trying to fit through a revolving door all at once—nothing moves.”
NPR conjured a musical metaphor when citing Martin Libicki, a researcher at RAND, an American think-tank, who compared DDoS attacks to the traffic jam that follows the end of a concert: “You’ve got all these people filling the streets all at once. If you happen to be in the same area at the same time, you’re going to have a hard time getting through.”
Fox News imagined that websites hit by DDoS attacks are “trying to sip from the Niagara falls”. But this Babbage’s favourite—at least for the time being—is the gastronomic accident recounted by Matt Gunin, a systems administrator and gaming enthusiast:
Just imagine jellybeans being thrown at you one at a time. It starts with one jellybean being thrown over and over, and then two, and then three, and so on and so on until you either have to eat all the jellybeans or you explode.
As denial-of service assaults become more common and more potent, journalists will probably look for ever more striking ways to report them. Have Babbage readers come across any particularly memorable (or absurd) metaphors?
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