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Can online gaming exist without constant, malicious disruption?

When people are bored, they do dumb things. Distributed denial-of-service attacks fall into the category of "dumb things." Like other such riveting activities as prank phone calls and Ding-Dong-Ditch, DDoS attacks require little skill or expert knowledge--just a willingness to mess with someone else for some short-lived entertainment. DDoSing is what caused the PlayStation Network downtime over the weekend, as well as the Battle.net, League of Legends, and Path of Exile outages that occurred around the same time. These DDoS onslaughts aren't the first concerted efforts at stalling out popular games, and they definitely won't be the last. It begs the question: are these kinds of attacks an inevitable part of the online gaming environment?

Let's quickly put some things in perspective. First off, your personal info is not at risk during a DDoS attack. PSN may have been down for a few hours on Sunday, but unlike the hacking fiasco in 2011, no actual data was compromised this time around. That's because hacking and DDoS attacks are very different things. The former implies at least a modicum of cleverness and talent; the ability to bypass walls of security to effect some kind of change. DDoSing is more akin to clogging a toilet.

Most people never feel the self-aggrandizing need to DDoS anyone, but a Google search is all the education you need to pull it off. A group of people--or one person with a bunch of bots--work in tandem to overload servers with meaningless information, slowing it to a temporary halt. Kinda like how hundreds of sheets of toilet paper will inevitably clog up some bathroom pipes. The attackers can rejoice in their brief moment of toilet-clogging triumph, fully aware that it won't be long before a plumber steps in and restores the system to normal. To some people, those few hours of the toilet being broken are apparently a cause for celebration.

DDoSing may be simple to do, but its effects can be pretty significant. In the grand scheme of things, not being able to log into PSN for a few hours is very much a first-world problem, and the kind of inconvenience that you'll completely forget about by--and I'm just guessing here--this Friday. On the other hand, the interrupted service is bad for Sony's business, and probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales. Then there are the inexplicably vile attacks like the DDoS disruption of the Extra Life charity event, which might've actually been the work of compassionless demons from the 9th dimension possessing the bodies of Internet users.

What can stop DDoSing? By the look of things, not much. For every countermeasure, there are twenty aimless people devising new methods of attack. The same group that's claiming responsibility for all the recent DDoS attacks also gave itself a nice butt-patting for a fake bomb threat, which--as a bona fide act of terror--is enough to get the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the FBI couldn't care less about temporary blackouts for game services. Quite frankly, that's fine; FBI agents have much bigger, more important fish to fry.

The argument that these attacks will force companies to improve their security doesn't work. From the sound of it, DDoSing is almost impossible to prevent, simply because of how cursory and fruitless its methods are. Trying to wipe out DDoSing is like trying to make gnats go extinct. Yes, they're annoying, but they're probably not going to ruin your life either. If you're big enough to target, you're probably big enough to recover and move on like it never happened.

DDoS attacks will happen. So... what are we supposed to do, then? Do we try to just ignore it? That deprives DDoSers of getting a rise out of the general public, but there's no telling whether or not that will deter them. Should we just accept it as an ugly part of gaming culture? At that point, we're just giving a handful of jerkwads the power to ruin things for everyone. It's a hard question to answer. Maybe we should all unplug our consoles and cling to physical media like it's 2006.

13 comments

  • alllifeinfate - October 5, 2014 10:36 p.m.

    It has been a part of the gaming culture, but any ill-intentioned attack on well-intentioned events such as the charity event is inexcusable.
  • winner2 - August 26, 2014 8:53 p.m.

    I mean, if you find them somehow I think the rest is self explanatory. Too bad it's damn near impossible, or else we could just sue the shit out of them , like literally.
  • Pooka - August 26, 2014 3:35 p.m.

    Please please please don't give these fucking script kiddies anymore attention. They'll be getting plenty in prison.
  • andrew-dickson - August 26, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    I assume the kind of person who deliberately attacks an online entity for 'funsies' is akin to the kind of person that screams at Anita Sarkeesian when she voices an opinion. The same kind of person that screams racist abuse over Xbox live between sips of mountain dew. The internet has given power to people who don't deserve it. So yes, this sort of stuff will always be with us. When the penalties for such actions become prohibitively severe, then we might see it curtail.
  • FoxdenRacing - August 26, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    I'm genuinely surprised, I thought this article was going to be about in-game griefing [which also can't be prevented without dedicated admins running dedicated servers, due to the very nature of centrally-matchmade, peer-to-peer hosted multiplayer]. Part of me does think that DoS is going to ebb down drastically in about 10 years. The next generation...those currently ~7 and under...are by and large not going to want anything to do with PCs, in a Back to the Future 2 'Aww man, you have to use your HANDS?' kind of way...meaning less bored kids with computers and nothing better to do than run somebody else's scripts while cackling about how 133+ they are for being able to type in an IP address / domain name and hit a button.
  • Balaska - August 26, 2014 5:41 a.m.

    I hope these guys enjoy getting to know their new boyfriends when they go to jail for the bomb threat.
  • bossk128 - August 26, 2014 1:26 a.m.

    Dedicated servers on both PC and console. Why not? DDos is many against the few. Many against the many doesn't work as well.
  • FoxdenRacing - August 26, 2014 8:39 a.m.

    Why not? Cost and control. Cost: For a company to run dedicated servers would cost a fortune...$400/month/box or more for something capable of handling a gaming load...and you can bet the publishers wouldn't settle for just breaking even. Control: Allowing players to set up dedicated servers means the publisher has little to no say in how that server is run...and very few companies are willing to give that up any more. Once upon a time, there was no other way in PC...you wrote a server, and even local bot-matches ran on a server hosted on the user's computer. I'd love to see dedicated servers make a comeback, even persistent ban lists and admin tools would be a huge step in the right direction, but until the guard changes, it's not gonna happen. :(
  • mafyooz - August 26, 2014 12:41 a.m.

    I don't really play online so it shouldn't have affected me too much, but not being able to play single player Trials Fusion was a pain, especially as I'd been watching Twitch footage the night before which showed just how crap I am at the game and wanted to get some practice in ;)
  • GOD - August 25, 2014 11:35 p.m.

    Better methods to track DDOSing to it's source would be the best solution. Simply because it would mean being able to stop the person from doing it, and deterring others from trying. I'm sure once the company was able to track down the individual they wouldn't find it very hard with their lawyer army to sue them to hell. You've seen what nonsense lawyers for big companies can pull off, so imagine what they could do with a real case. Unfortunately, that's probably extremely hard to track. I don't think it's impossible, but currently probably pretty close to it. Would probably be easier to have Twitter somehow track the guy down.
  • BladedFalcon - August 25, 2014 6:10 p.m.

    Can the majority of people live without acting like major douchebags at one point in their lives?
  • shawksta - August 25, 2014 6:47 p.m.

    Nearly impossible unless your THAT pure :P
  • Cyberninja - August 25, 2014 6:49 p.m.

    The majority of people live that way but you can't stop the few bad apples sadly

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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