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Hackers put the futility back in Sun's grid utility

DOS attack - or the Slashdot effect?

Application security programs and practises

Just hours after it went live, Sun Microsystems' grid computing service was felled by hackers using a denial-of-service attack. Sun, however, won't reveal any hints about the culprits or confirm whether or not it has contacted law enforcement about the attack.

Sun yesterday turned on its $1 per chip per hour service that lets businesses send their large, parallelized tasks to a Sun run cluster for processing. Sun thought that, after 18 months of preparing this service, it had worked through all the kinks. Not so.

Hackers crippled a trial portion of Sun's service where potential customers would tap into a text-to-speech software package and see how the grid worked. Sun had to set up a registration process on-the-fly for this trial service in order to sidestep the denial-of-service attack.

"There were some minimal DOS attempts early yesterday which is normal for any internet service," said Sun's director of utility computing Aisling MacRunnels. "The problem was resolved quickly. The Sun Grid was not compromised and there was no degradation of service for users inside the Sun Grid."

While Sun plays off the DOS attack as standard dot-com business, government observers may be less impressed. The US blocked the initial launch of Sun's grid out of security fears, suggesting that terrorists might design nuclear weapons or model bio-weapons attacks on the the cluster after using PayPal to rent the processors. (We hear PayPal is huge with the Axis of Evil) Sun got past such fears by making the grid service a US only thang for the time being.

Few companies will publicly out their suspects in hacking incidents, so it's no surprise that Sun is mum on that front. What is unusual is Sun's reluctance to disclose if it has in fact contacted law enforcement about the breach.

"We don't comment on privacy issues," Sun said.

Need we remind the company that it "has no privacy" and should "get over it."

One may be tempted to think that the DOS attack was the innocent consequence of news stories and Slashdot pointing to network.com, and not a group of rogue hackers, but banish such impure thoughts at once. ®

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