Denial-of-Service Attack Transformed Into Beautiful Black Hole
Logstalgia renders a DDoS attack like a game of 'Pong.'
CREDIT: Ludovic Fauvet
Artists derive inspiration from some of the most harrowing experiences imaginable, as in Pablo Picasso's "Guernica" or Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List."
In this vein, a website administrator transformed a potentially crippling distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack into an artistic light show that resembled nothing so much as a rainbow-colored version of "Pong" — or a black hole sucking in all available light.
To create his light show, Ludovic Fauvet of the French company VideoLAN employed Logstalgia, a program that describes itself as a "website traffic visualization." Logstalgia displays each attempt to reach a website as a colored ball, and the website itself as a paddle.
The paddle "hits" each successful visitor, while unsuccessful ones (users who receive errors) make it past the paddle's defenses. (If it were a real game of "Pong," it would be one-sided and end with a very high score.)
Logstalgia's visualizations can look very different depending on the website in question. A small personal site will look pretty boring, with a paddle lazily catching a lone ball every once in a while. Conversely, a popular site will present a fast-paced, moving rainbow.
On April 23, Fauvet found his VideoLAN site (which provides the popular VLC Media Player) under attack by a malicious botnet. There did not appear to be any rhyme or reason behind the attack, nor did any group claim responsibility for it. [See also: 10 Reasons to Fear a 'Cyber Pearl Harbor']
Luckily for Fauvet, he had protected his site well enough to prevent it from going down, but decided to capture the DDoS attack with Logstalgia. The result can best be described as a funnel-shaped explosion of rainbow candy buttons, or as a black hole into which all data is being sucked into a single point.
VideoLAN repelled an estimate 400 attacks per second, while still keeping the site up and running for its myriad legitimate visitors.
DDoS attacks are an inelegant but effective method of bringing down a website. A hostile agency floods a website with fraudulent visits, usually from bogus, replicated IPs.
As the website allocates more and more resources to deal with these phony visitors, the servers get overloaded and lock real visitors out of the system. Eventually, the site collapses, and cannot return until the attack subsides hours or even days later.
DDoS attacks can bankrupt content creators, inconvenience users and create a ton of extra work for Web administrators, but let it never be said that they're not good for anything. Accidental art is still art.