In February, an unknown hacker typed in a command that caused a harem of slave computers called zombies to begin what is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Their target was giant portal site Yahoo!. The secret army of computers flooded Yahoo! servers with repeated requests for data, keeping almost all legitimate visitors from reaching the site for three hours. In the days that followed, copycat hackers had their way with some of the biggest and busiest e-commerce and portal sites on the Internet. Microsoft, eBay, and Buy.com were just a few of the Goliaths knocked down, allegedly by the likes of a few David-sized teen hackers.
Though one arrest has been made (a 15-year-old has been charged with disabling Cnn.com), the DDoS attacks are still being seen as "victorious" and hordes of curious techno-wizards are nosing around in cyberspace right now, sniffing out unsecure servers on which to display their criminal prowess. And just in case you were feeling left out, rest assured: The big sites aren't the only ones at risk. Smaller sites may be just as vulnerable to hacking, whether from unknown pranksters, thieves seeking your customer's financial information or saboteurs in search of company secrets. But don't shut down your e-shop yet.
While every computer connected to the Internet is exposed to the prying eyes of the world, there are steps you can take to evaluate and eliminate potential security risks. The first step is to be aware of the ways high-tech criminals attempt to compromise network security. Read on to educate yourself about common hacking methods and how to reduce your risks.
Tina Gasperson writes about technology, business and the Internet. Her articles and columns have been published at Andover.net, Office.com, TechTraveler.com and many other publications. Visit her Web site at www.gasperson.com.