Georgia blocks e-mails protesting execution, claiming DDOS attack

Receiving 67 e-mails an hour might be a slow day for most organizations. But the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles deemed it a distributed denial-of-service attack and shut down traffic from Amnesty International New Zealand, whose members were urging clemency for convicted murderer Troy Davis.

Davis was executed by lethal injection late in the evening Sept. 21 in Jackson, Ga., for the 1989 killing of an off-duty police officer.

Protests around the world, including pleas from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, had urged a stop to the execution, CNN and other news organizations reported. Amnesty International New Zealand had joined the protests, organizing a Web petition for clemency that produced 800 e-mails over a 12-hour period, which works out to an average of just less that 67 an hour.

The e-mails were sent while the Board of Pardons and Paroles could consider granting clemency, which it denied Sept. 20. The Supreme Court subsequently rejected a request for a stay of execution.

The parole board’s IT department had noticed an influx of e-mails from Amnesty International’s New Zealand Web server, prompting them to accuse the group of a DDOS attack and shut down traffic from the server, National Business Review reported.

A former Microsoft official told NBR that the campaign obviously was not a DDOS attack and scoffed at the idea that it could be considered one. “The most basic e-mail server on the planet would be capable of handling 800 emails in a 12-hour period,” Brett Roberts, former chief technology officer for Microsoft New Zealand, said via e-mail.

DDOS attacks typically try to make a website or other online service unavailable by flooding it with external requests, such as e-mail messages, that occupy the site’s servers to a degree that prevents them from doing anything else, and in some cases causing the site to crash. They often are perpetrated via botnets, a collection of unknowingly compromised computers connected to the Internet.

DDOS attacks are a favorite tool of the hacker group Anonymous, which has often launched such attacks on government websites in the United States and other countries, and in the process harvested sensitive information from organizations’ networks. 

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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