One of the most common attacks seen against a website is a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, where malicious hackers command botnets of hijacked computers around the world to bombard a particular website with traffic - causing it to fall over.
The team at Google Ideas has teamed up with Arbor Networks to provide Digital Attack Map, a visualisation of denial-of-service attacks around the world.
There’s even a movable timeline, so you can look back through at historic attacks (see the enormous DDoS attack which started on August 8 2013, for instance, when the United States was getting pounded).
Pretty neat, eh?
The threat of DDoS attacks have been used by hackers in the past to blackmail websites into paying “protection money”, or risk having their site go offline. Victims have included gambling sites in the run-up to major sporting events.
However, in recent years it has become a favourite weapon of hacktivists and politically-motivated attackers who wish to silence a website that they dislike.
Of course, it’s not just the owners of the websites themselves who are the victims in this kind of online bombardment. Regular computer users suffer too - both by not being able to visit particular sites, but also by having their own computer participating in the attack.
Obviously, the best thing is to avoid having your computer recruited into a botnet in the first place.
You can reduce the chances of that happening by keeping your anti-virus software up-to-date, deploy a layered defence in your company rather than just relying on one technology, and install the latest security patches for your operating system and programs such as Adobe Flash, PDF Reader, and Java.
Remember - if your computer has been recruited into a botnet, it might not just be launching DDoS attacks. Hackers could just as easily steal your files, read your email, spy on every keypress you make, launch spam and malware campaigns, and even watch you through your webcam.
If Google’s Digital Attack Map raises the public’s awareness of the DDoS and botnet risk, then it will have been a job well done.
Further reading: Google fights ‘censorship via cyber attack’ with Project Shield