By Max Clarke
Reports that five men were arrested in connection with an investigation into the DDoS attacks against allegedly anti-WikiLeaks financial and other Web sites, have been welcomed by the organisers of the Infosecurity Europe show.
Held annually in London's Earls Court, Infosecurity Europe is the continent's leading exhibition for information security professionals.
According to Claire Sellick, Event Director for Infosecurity Europe, which takes place each spring in London, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks - no matter what their stated intention - are a potentially devastating type of attack on commercial organisations.
"Whilst the Anonymous group has received a lot of positive attention, most recently in the toppling of the government in Tunisia, the reality of a DDoS attack on a commercial organisation is that it paralyses that firm's Web site and, in many cases, costs them money - both directly and indirectly," she said.
"And whilst those staging the DDoS attacks may feel they are carrying out their acts of cybervandalism with good intentions, the reality is that a team of IT professionals has to sort out the mess behind the scenes," she added.
The Infosecurity Europe director went on to say that that the arrests of the five people on Thursday follow on from the arrest of two teenagers in the Netherlands on similar allegations.
And, she said, other arrests will undoubtedly come in the weeks and months ahead, as investigators piece together the trail of electronic breadcrumbs that anyone using the Internet leaves behind them.
Even if a user thinks they are anonymous on the Internet, the reality is that, with sufficient time and resources, investigators can track them down by their IP trails, she explained. After that, arrests can ensue.
If, as seem likely, charges ensue against the five people who have been arrested, it is almost certain that any court appearances will be punctuated by media reports of celebrities expressing their support for the cause, and perhaps even the odd misguided celebrity offering to pay their fines and legal fees.
But, says Sellick, the spotlight of the media circus that will accompany any possible court cases will never fall on the hard-working IT professionals who labour behind the scenes to restore services on the Web servers affected by a DDoS attack.
"That is the stark IT reality here. The only piece of good news that will result from the DDoS attacks of recent months is that IT security experts now understand a lot more about how an attack of this type unfolds in the wild, and how to assuage its effects," she said.
"This expertise will also allow specialists to better defend the national infrastructure from future cybervandalism. We expect many experts to talk about the issue of DDoS attacks at the Infosecurity Europe show, when it opens for a three-day run on April 19-21 at Earls Court in London," she added.