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WordPress Hit by DDOS Attack. Are Internet Companies Too Leveraged?

Blog hosting company WordPress is reeling after a massive Internet attack yesterday, possibly politically motivated, hit 3 of its 5 data centers hard. WordPress thought that the attack was actually directed at one of the non-English blogs it hosts, although the company didn't identify it. There was an attack on South Korean sites today, but it's unknown whether the actions are related.

An attack of this scale is big, particularly when WordPress has 30 million publisher customers, including big media names like CBS (CBS Interactive owns BNET) and AOL (TechCrunch uses WordPress). Haydn Shaughnessy at Forbes.com was taken by the scale that an Internet business like WordPress can achieve, as it seems to employ only 75 people. It's an interesting point and raises another question. Are many young Internet companies too leveraged on technology?

Live or die on dependability
High tech service companies live and die on the the dependability of their offerings. A slip-up can mushroom into negative publicity for your business and an indirect pat on the back for your competitor. Look at the recent Gmail outage. Microsoft (MSFT) stayed quiet, but you know executives were cackling over Google's (GOOG) public discomfort.

Attacks, even large scale ones, are a fact of business life. Such companies as MasterCard (MC) and PayPal (EBAY) found themselves direct targets of cyber attacks over their associations with actions against WikiLeaks. As WordPress has likely learned, if you host material that could raise the ire of politically-motivated, technically-astute people with a grudge, you, too, could find yourself attacked.

In the WikiLeaks-related hacktivist attacks, the major companies got away without too much damage. Why? First, DDOS attacks are old and, at this point, should be well understood. More importantly, though, the companies are prepared to handle such attempts and, more importantly, have the resources and available personnel to take necessary actions.

But for a young Internet company that wants to use as few people as possible in their operations, the leanness of the operation could also mean not enough ability to respond and limit damage. When you have 30 million customers, that becomes unacceptable. Maybe it's time for some of the better funded start-ups and early stage companies to reconsider whether they are truly minimizing expenses, or unnecessarily leaving themselves, and their customers, vulnerable.

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Image: WikiMedia Commons
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