The message board site 4Chan has learned the hard way that what goes around, does indeed come around. On December 28th, 4Chan’s site was taken down by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Typically, DDoS attacks involve inundating a website’s servers with more access requests than they can handle. Despite the inconveniences this type of attack presents, 4Chan is taking the attack in stride, even poking fun at the whole event.
DDoS attacks are becoming more and more common as a cyber combat tactic—or at least they seem to be increasingly prominent in the news. And 4Chan is frequently central to many of these news stories, particularly since it serves as a launch pad for groups like “Anonymous”—an Internet-based group of hackers and protesters who organize cyber attacks against specific targets.
Recently, Anonymous launched DDoS attacks against anyone who tried to enforce the censorship of WikiLeaks, a controversial whistle-blowing website that has become famous for leaking top-secret information often related to American foreign policy.
The site is founded on the premise that transparency is preferable to censorship. And 4Chan, which claims to share these ideals with WikiLeaks, has taken to defending WikiLeaks against its foes by supporting DDoS attacks and other cyber attacks. Anonymous’ latest campaign is called “Operation Payback,” and its primary motive is to defend WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
As part of Operation Payback, in December, 4Chan-backed Anonymous shut down the servers at a major online payment service through a DDoS attack. They targeted the online payment service after it announced that it was severing ties with WikiLeaks, which would prevent WikiLeaks from receiving any donations through its service. This was a big blow to WikiLeaks given that it survives largely through donations. Among Operation Payback’s other targets were Mastercard and Swiss bank PostFinance.
But now someone has struck back with a DDoS attack of their own and has taken down 4Chan’s website. It’s not the first time that 4Chan has dealt with this sort of retaliation, but the real question is whether it can recover. According to a report on Internet attacks, major sites can usually bounce back from DDoS attacks, but sometimes, websites (particularly the smaller ones) are too crippled to recuperate.