One of the best things about the internet is free media. Whether it’s a podcast, vlog, or even a Creative Commons ebook, I love being able to access other people’s works on any device or platform. One of the most awesome free media companies out there is Revision3. These guys make shows like Diggnation, Tekzilla, and The Totally Rad Show and put them up in tons of formats for absolutely no charge. Sure they have ads and sponsors, but not six minute blocks like broadcast television.
Some of the shows, like Diggnation, have become so popular that they are now available in HD for those who like to watch it on their High-Def screens. One could download these directly off the server, but, due to their size, the most efficient way to distribute these HD files is with BitTorrent. That’s right, BitTorrent, the protocol that pirates use to distribute and receive their illegal materials. It also happens to be a perfectly legitimate technology and companies like Revision3 are some of the first to make strides in legitimizing it.
Another company, Media Defender, is in the business of disrupting P2P networks like BitTorrent and help flag users who are distributing the works of others. This may sound innocuous, but their tactics completely target the technology at work, not the media being traded. Their toolkit includes seeding networks with false files and initiating Denial of Service attacks (or DoS) on piracy networks. What is a DoS, you ask? Well the networking lingo is over my head, but essentially one computer overwhelms another with an unceasing flow of packets that use all of the victim’s available resources. Once this occurs, the network (often the server supporting a website) fails.
If you haven’t connected all the dots yet, here’s the rest:
The Revision3 team detected some weirdly associated SYN packets and tried to de-authorize them. Instead of breaking the connection, thousands of SYN packets started pouring in (they estimate 8000/second) to reconnect with their target files. In short order this brought down the site and service didn’t resume for several days. After a quick investigation, it came to light that the offending packets were coming from none other than Media Defender and that they were utilizing a security hole in the server port related to BitTorrent trackers.
The full details and official response are available directly from Revision3’s blog, but this is clearly an unacceptable offense. Revision3 wanted to give their customers as many ways to obtain their free content as possible and a company like Media Defender (often in the pay of the RIAA and the MPAA) has no right to interrupt that service. It appears that the attack may have been either unplanned or unintentional, but since DoS attacks are illegal in the United States, the FBI has been called in to investigate. I wonder if Media Defender will have its servers raided for a change.
In any event, I hope that this is the last DoS attack on Rev3. My iPhone starts to shake when it doesn’t get a fix of Diggnation every week.