DoS attacks and political campaigns

| Comments (1) | Networking
One of the results of Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) calling President Obama a liar on national TV was that money started pouring in, both to Wilson and his likely opponent in 2010 (Rob Miller). Piryx, who hosts Wilson's site, claims that on Friday and Saturday they were then subject to a 10 hour DoS attack against their systems:
Yesterday (Friday) around 3:12pm CST we noticed the bandwidth spike on the downstream connections to server collocation facility. Our bandwidth and packet rate threshold monitors went off and we saw both traditional DOS bandwidth based attacks as well as very high packet rate, low bandwidth ICMP floods all destined for our IP address.

...At this point we have spent 40+ man hours, with 10 external techs fully monopolized in researching and mitigating this attack.

To give a sense of scale, the attacks were sending us 500+ Mbps of traffic, which would run about $147,500 per month in bandwidth overages.

I think most people would agree that technical attacks on candidates Web sites, donation systems, etc. aren't good for democracy—just as it would be bad if candidates were regularly assassinated—and it would be good if they didn't happen. While there are technical countermeasures against, DoS, they're expensive and only really work well if you have a site with a lot of capacity so that you can absorb the attack, which isn't necessarily something that every HSP has.

This may turn out to be a bad idea, but it occurred to me that one way to deal with this kind of attack might be for the federal government to simply run its own HSP, dedicated solely to hosting sites for candidates and to accepting payments on their behalf. Such a site could be large enough—though compared to big service providers, comparatively small—to resist most DoS attacks. Also, to the extent to which everyone ran their candidate sites there, it would remove the differential effect of DoS attacks: sure you can DoS the site, but you're damaging your own preferred candidate as much as the opposition. Obviously, this doesn't help if the event that precipitates the surge of donations massively favors one side, but in this case, at least, both sides saw a surge. I don't know if this is universally true though.

Of course, this would put the site operator (either the feds or whoever they outsourced it to) in a position to know who donated to which candidate, but in many cases this must be disclosed anyway, and presumably if the operation was outsourced, one could put a firewall in to keep the information not subject to disclosure away from the feds.


How do you determine who's a legitimate candidate and who's just claiming to be one for purposes of avoiding DoS? If there are too many excluded legitimate candidates or included fake ones this seems like trouble for the agency running it.

Do you charge for hosting?

Presumably there already exist big service providers who could host relatively DoS-resistant sites and candidates who are worried about those things could just move there. In practice they have other concerns (such as helping out local hosters, etc). Also, candidates who are running against big government may want to avoid being hosted by the government to avoid appearing hypocritical.

So, yeah, interesting idea but I'm not sure it'll fly.

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