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December 9th, 2010
12:23 PM ET

Why attackers can't take down Amazon


The organizers of an attempted Amazon takedown called off the attack less than an hour later.

Julianne Pepitone
CNN Money Staff Reporter

The website-attacking group "Anonymous" tried and failed to take down Amazon.com on Thursday. The group's vengeance horde quickly found out something techies have known for years: Amazon, which has built one of the world's most invincible websites, is almost impossible to crash.

Amazon has famously massive server capacity in order to handle the December e-commerce rush. That short holiday shopping window is so critical, and so intense, that even a few minutes of downtime could cost Amazon millions.

So Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) has spent years creating and refining an "elastic" infrastructure, called EC2, designed to automatically scale to handle giant traffic spikes. The company has so much spare server capacity, in fact, that it runs a sideline business hosting other websites. Its customers include the New York Times, Second Life, Etsy, Playfish, the Indianapolis 500 and the Washington Post.

Until last week, WikiLeaks was one of Amazon's website-hosting customers. Amazon gave WikiLeaks the boot in the wake of the site's controversial release of a trove secret U.S. State Department documents.

That put Amazon in the crosshairs of Anonymous, a group that originated on image-board site 4chan.com, which organizes swarms to try to crash the websites of those it deems enemies. In the past, Anonymous has taken down several high-profile sites, including those of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

This week, Anonymous launched takedown campaigns against organizations that have shunned the site WikiLeaks. Under the banner "Operation Payback," the Anonymous group successfully crashed Mastercard.com and strained the websites of Visa and PayPal. (Mastercard and Visa's transaction networks - which run completely independently of their websites - were unaffected.)

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Technology
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Will

    So, I wonder will WikiLeaks leak all of its own internal information? Like, say, its donors?

    December 9, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  2. anon. myass

    I'm all for exposing "bad" secrets. When are we going to get leaks from N. Korea, China, Russia, Iran, etc. I'm just talking about leveling the playing field: Expose one, Expose all. I'm sure we'll all be better off if we could expose all the "bad" secrets regarding corruption and greed around the world. No sarcasm here, just wishful thinking.

    December 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  3. Pavel

    Amazon is strong like bull.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  4. G reg

    People!! We must stop this site from spilling all of "our" nations secrets. Its a disgrace what this traitor is leaking! I mean, what is this world going to be like if Pfizer can't go and test their unproven drugs on the poorest black people in the world and then blackmail and extort their government officials until they back down. I mean did this really happen... come on. I didn't hear it on Fox or CNN. Also, how are the large oil companies going to be able to provide us with insanely expensive gas if they can't price fix and rob Nigeria's people of their natural resources. Their country is better off this way. We should all be really proud of our government and these companies. We need to stand up for them and continue ONLY watching network news channels who receive massive amounts of advertising dollars for these companies. That way, our media will be to scared to even mention these horrible "leaks". We the people, don't need to know this stuff. Its classified for a reason people!!!! We should just work, and then shop on credit cards so the financial companies can enslave us with interest until all we can do is work. We don't need to know all these bad secrets.

    December 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  5. John Moore - PA

    So these people who are so upset about what they claim is censorship on the internet are basically doing that very same thing to the general public. These people are only anarchists who will always believe that they are the only ones with the right answer.

    December 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm |