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Understanding the Impact of Web Attacks - the User Perspective

By Aaron Rudger | April 2, 2013 | Comments (0)

CATEGORIES: Web Performance

Recently, Keynote was asked to comment on a widely publicized attack against a company online. The attack, known as a distributed denial of service, was targeted at a network of web servers primarily located in Europe. DDoS attacks against websites have occurred periodically for years. Unlike past incidents, the nature of this particular attack was characterized as severe enough to have caused broad disruption on the Internet. The suggestion made was that users like you and I may have found our email delayed and websites either slow or unavailable.

While many methods exist to understand the impact of web attacks like this, Keynote's web performance monitoring service and global network provide a unique perspective--the end users' perspective. Our business is monitoring websites for our customers so that they have a consistent and accurate source of information about their site's performance. But we also use that same technology to monitor select sites across the Internet and make this data publicly available in the form of an index--actually, 43 indices. And we also use it to provide another free service called The Internet Health Report that shows what's happening across the major U.S. Internet Service Providers in real time.

Our Performance Indices allow us to "see" whether the Web is slow in Europe, for example. This is because we periodically test a wide range of websites from our network of hundreds of monitoring agents connected to different ISPs all over the world. These agents pretend to be a site visitor and measure performance during their visit.

One of our indices monitors the U.S. banking sector. The financial services industry has been hit hard of late by DDoS attacks. And we've been seeing the impact in terms of the inconvenience these attacks have imposed on e-banking customers. One way to look at this impact is by the availability of the banks' home pages. This graph shows how home page availability for the 15 banks we monitor has trended over the past year:

Keynote_Avail_Chart_eBanking--201204-201303

A site's home page might go down due of a number of reasons other than an attack, including things like planned maintenance, or an unprovoked failure in the server/network/application. But this graph shows a strong correlation between when the recent wave of DDoS attacks on the banks were reported to have started (September, 2012) and outages.

Our Performance Indices are a great source of information for benchmarking and comparisons. But in order to use them for real time comparisons, like whether the rest of the Web is experiencing an issue that you might be observing (perhaps with users in a certain region), our weekly web tables are not very helpful. The good news, is that our KB40 index can be accessed in real time programmatically. Read our post on open API access to the KB40 index for step by step instructions.

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