Islandnet owner Mark Morley worked all night Wednesday to get servers back online after a cyber-attack.

‘Polite terrorist’ crashed Islandnet servers

  • May. 12, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Thousands of websites hosted by Islandnet were flooded to the point of collapse last week to compel the Langford web hosting company to shut down a client’s blog page.

Problems began the evening of May 9 when Islandnet servers were knocked offline by what appeared to be too many users trying to access its sites at once, but was in fact a relatively sophisticated “distributed denial of service” attack.

The hacker infected a remote network computers with a virus and directed the machines to hit websites on Islandnet servers with data requests until the servers were overwhelmed and bogged down.

A similar style attack was used last December to crash the WikiLeaks website, and websites owned by several major credit card companies.

Islandnet owner Mark Morley was shocked to learn the same methods were being used against his comparatively small business.

“I couldn’t understand why they’d be going after us,” Morley said.

Attacks intensified each day. On Tuesday the servers, and sites that depend on them, were slow and dropped offline periodically. By Wednesday evening they’d crashed completely.

Morley was up all night at his Goldstream Avenue office, staying awake on coffee and soft drinks, trying to defend against unyielding attacks.

“It was like playing Whac-a-Mole for a while, every time we blocked one (attack), another would pop up,” Morley said.

Finally, on Thursday morning, Morley received an anonymous email from someone claiming responsibility for the attacks. The writer said the attacks would continue until Islandnet agreed to shut down a particular blog written by a Vancouver man detailing his custody battle. Morley wouldn’t reveal the name of the blog, but said it included some anti-female rants and negative comments towards judges and lawyers.

“We believe in freedom of speech, but ultimately we did decide to take the site down,” Morley said. “I didn’t feel good about it, but we couldn’t sacrifice service to thousands of websites to stand up for one customer.”

When the blog was removed, the attacks stopped and the hacker sent a polite email to Morley thanking him for his co-operation.

“After being awake for 48 hours, I had to chuckle at that,” Morley said. “Our company was held hostage by a polite terrorist.”

In nearly two decades of business, it was Islandnet’s first time being struck by this type of attack, but it’s not the first time Morley has dealt with somebody wanting a site shut down.

“People threaten legal action occasionally,” Morley said. “I tell them I won’t take the site down without a court order, and usually they give up.”

Kris Constable, a computer privacy consult and director of the Victoria-based PrivaSecTech, said anyone who can use a Google search could download software to carry out a denial of service attack to temporarily block access to a website, but controlling a network of computers for a prolonged distributed attack takes skill.

“It’s surprising somebody with the sophistication to do that would bother going after someone as small as Islandnet,” he said, noting it’s possible someone hired a hacker for the job.

Longtime Islandnet user Colin Newell hosts his blog CoffeeCrew and a dozen other websites with the company. He was initially put off by his service provider giving a fellow blogger the boot.

“It could have just as easily been my blog causing the attack,” Newell said, noting he occasionally posts his opinions about domestic and foreign politics. “I wouldn’t have wanted my blog taken down like that.”

However he said he isn’t going to change his service provider over it. “It’s a business decision. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy choice to make,” Newell said.

Islandnet hosts more than 5,000 websites, including many popular local sites such as Thrifty Foods, the Belfry Theatre and Bolen Books. Cumulatively its sites are accessed by more than 10 million users per day.

“It’s pretty significant to have all those sites down, even for a short time,” Morley said. “We’ve asked the RCMP to investigate this and try to find the person behind it.”

news@goldstreamgazette.com

 

Just Posted

Convicted drug trafficker asks Victoria courtroom for chance to ‘turn this around’

Horst Schirmer sentenced for convictions on five counts of possession related to trafficking

Pipeline protestors plan march as Trudeau gives Trans Mountain the go-ahead,

20 kilometre march to protest the pipeline starts in Victoria, ends on Saanich Peninsula

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

$11 million overdraw for McKenzie Interchange construction

The project has been delayed multiple times and is now estimating a budget of $96 million

Alzheimer Society calls for helpline volunteers in Greater Victoria

Charity is in ‘urgent need’ as calls on the rise

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Most Read