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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Hackers wiped us out? Great news!

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 21 February 2000

ZDNET'S LARRY DIGNAN made an interesting comment about the recent Internet attacks. He believes victims gained more in free publicity than they lost in downtime. "For some companies," he mused, "a little hacking adversity could be a springboard to bigger things... Some players on Media Metrix's top 20 have got to be hoping for a hack attack for the PR boost."

Pundit Larry Dignan deserves credit for a killer prediction. He bet a firm would soon brag about an attack for its publicity value. Avaterra.com made Dignan's prediction a reality.

"Don't be surprised," Dignan wrote, "if you see [a press release] in the next few days" which brags about an attack for its publicity value. And wouldn't you know it? Avaterra.com made his prediction a reality on 18 February. I'd almost swear Dignan wrote it himself:

Avaterra.com, Inc. (OTC BB:AVAR), the company that markets popular and fast-growing virtual world environments under the brand VZones(TM), was hit yesterday by one or more hackers who succeeded in crashing the company's largest consumer-based virtual world.

Avaterra.com technical staff was able to restore VZconnections yesterday evening and the site is now fully operational. It is not believed that any of the Avaterra.com subscriber information was compromised during the denial-of-service attack.

"VZconnections, our largest Virtual Zone, is seen as an engaging and enjoyable place to spend time on the Internet, and this has apparently made us a high-profile target," said David Andrews, Avaterra.com's CEO. "Members and visitors to Avaterra.com's VZones logged over 630,000 online hours in January alone, and our member base continues to grow dramatically. Regrettably, there are people whose only goal is to disrupt leading online destinations," Andrews added.

The company, which is notifying the FBI and other governmental agencies about the incident, hopes to be able to assist in the identification of the attacker or attackers. Other sites hit with hacker attacks include Dell Computer Corporation, E TRADE, Yahoo!, CNN.com, Amazon.com, and an undetermined number of smaller sites — all within the last 30 days.

"Many of our members spend three hours or more per session in our VZones and return almost 30 times per month. We are defining a new level of Web stickiness. This level of involvement and enjoyment is most probably unique on the Internet," continued David Andrews.

Avaterra.com paid Business Wire to distribute this press release — bringing yet another twist to the definition of "earned media."