Over the course of two days, the controversial conservative pundit's site was repeatedly "bombarded" by the efforts of a botnet.
The official Web site for Bill O'Reilly was taken down by a repeated denial-of-service attack this week.
The site for the controversial conservative pundit was hit over the course of two days, according to an advisory posted on the Web site. "BillOReilly.com was attacked repeatedly by a malicious technology called a 'botnet,' " reads the statement. "This means that the site was bombarded by data that overloaded our firewalls. We had to take the site down in order to protect it, and so we could make sure that every possible countermeasure was being taken."
Paul Ferguson, a network architect with security company TrendMicro, says this is a wake-up call for Web sites with a political bent, much like O'Reilly's. As the upcoming presidential election heats up, more and more candidates, pundits and everyday bloggers are taking to the Net to weigh in. That, says Ferguson, will draw a new wave of attacks.
"Somebody just decided to point their botnet at his Web site and get their jollies by taking his Web site off the Net for a period of time," he says. "People should open their eyes and realize their public Internet presence can be subjected to abuse, especially with the presidential campaigns coming up. If you're going to run a Web site, particularly a controversial political one, you've got to focus on security."
Johannes Ullrich, chief research officer at the SANS Institute and chief technology officer for the Internet Storm Center, says attacking politically oriented Web sites is nothing new but he, too, thinks this denial-of-service attack may be a bellwether event.
"The thing is they're very random and hard to predict," says Ullrich. "It's not necessarily cheap to protect yourself because you do it by buying more bandwidth. And sometimes with a bigger attack, it's too expensive to protect yourself and you just have to roll over and take it."
Ferguson says the timing of this attack was perfect in terms of sending a message to other pundits and candidates.
"The timing was immaculate with the political season heating up," he adds. "Left-wing bloggers, right-wing bloggers, candidates, and spin doctors are getting a lot of attention. If they're taken down and their messages don't get out, then that's a big factor for them."
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