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Is a DoS (Denial of Service) attack always illegal?

Is a denial of service attack always illegal? Because (I'm oversimplifying) all it really does is send repeated requests to a server. Is that, in itself, considered a computer crime?

3243 day(s) ago

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No, a DoS attack is not always illegal. It depends on who owns the website or server being attacked and who is sending the requests making up the attack. If everyone is a willing participant and no other networks are affected, then there is nothing illegal about it. That being said, legal DoS attacks are very rare because they have no purpose other than limit testing or security testing.

A denial-of-service attack is usually perpetrated by hackers who want to shut down a website against the website owner’s will. The attack is carried out by flooding the server or network used by the website with requests for access. This prevents the website or server from being able to respond to legitimate access requests. It may also cause a loss of email services used by the website and the loss of online accounts associated with the website.

Because the number of requests being sent to cause a server or website to go down is very large, DoS attacks are rarely carried out by willing participants. However, if all the requests were being sent by willing participants to the owner of a website willing to accept them, the attack would not be illegal.

However, most DoS attacks are of a variety called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks are carried out by unwilling participants whose computer systems have been hacked or infected with a virus to carry out the attacks unbeknownst to the owners of the computers.

Computers that have been infected so they will perform DoS attacks are referred to as zombies because the owners of the computers are not controlling them. Groups of zombie computers are called botnets, as in a network of robots. Botnets may include thousands of zombies all prepared to act at the whim of the controller. Botnets are often created by a single hacker known as a bot herder. Once the bot herder has a sufficient botnet, he or she can lease the use of the botnet to other hackers or individuals requiring a large group of zombies. One botnet recently found by Dutch police included 1.5 million zombies.

DoS attacks are considered a serious form of Internet crime because it causes website owners to lose their ability to operate as they normally would due to fraudulent activity. If the website in question is used for business, a DoS attack can cost the company thousands of dollars. DoS attacks can also affect nearby networks, causing residual damage or even regional Internet outages.

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