With the latest round of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks earlier this year, companies are looking into news ways to address the problem. As the actual hackers are often impossible to track down, companies are looking to hold home computer users liable for their part in these attacks.
In early 2006, hackers attacked over one thousand servers using “reflected” DDOS attacks. Like ordinary DDOS attacks the hackers hijacked unprotected third-party “zombie” computers to flood domain name system (DNS) servers with requests. Because many DNS servers are “recursive” if they do not have the requested information locally, they will search out the information from other sources. This recursive feature increases the destruction of the attack by orders of magnitude. Instead of providing and accurate address, the hacker provides the DNS server with a “spoofed” address of the intended victim, which results in the victim receiving a suffocating volume of traffic sufficient to shut down their website.
Since hackers are so difficult to locate, companies are now looking to the owners of these “zombie” computers for compensation. Zombie computers are computers infected with the DOS virus. The legal theory is that by not properly protecting their computers, owners of these zombie computers negligently facilitated the millions of dollars of damage associated with the attacks. Even thought this legal theory has not yet been tested in the courts, even a successful defense of such a lawsuit would likely cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How can you avoid getting sued for doing nothing? Do something. Protect your computer from DOS viruses. At the very least, keep your antivirus and other software updated with the latest patches. Combine your firewall with an intrusion detection system to alert you of any strange activity. Finally, if you can, configure your router to actively weed out DDOS activity. Your system will run smoother and you will rest easier knowing your computer system is not setting you up for a financial nightmare.