On evening of Christmas Eve Eve, Amazon, Wal-mart, and Expedia go down
While walking around downtown San Francisco yesterday doing some last-minute holiday shopping, my friends and I passed a line of shops closed down for the day. Apparently a fire that sparked up the day before in a next-door restaurant had caused all the nearby retailers to remain closed while clearing out the smoke. What a shame, I thought, for sellers to miss out on big holiday spending. I bet online retailers feel privileged to never have to worry about such outages.
Not so fast.
Yesterday around 4:45 PST, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Expedia--three of the largest online retailers--suffered serious down-time and, in some cases, complete outages for at least an hour.
The source of the problem was a DDoS
(Distributed Denial of Service) attack targeted at servers run by Neustar, the company whose DNS service, UltraDNS, is responsible for said companies' Web content and activity. Due to a quick response time, Neustar neutralized the attack in about an hour and all the while contained the disruption to Northern California.
Though the origin of the DDoS attack remains unknown, vice president of corporate communications for Neustar Allen Goldberg boasts that the company responded to the attack within minutes, which would explain how the attack was not as severe as it might have been.
While one might not think it apt to compare an hour of down-time for Amazon to the shop in the above anecdote, which was forced to remain closed for a whole day, simply consider the fact that Amazon sees 76,470,950 unique visitors a month, according to Compete
. Roughly converting that to an hour's worth of visitors, and one finds that Amazon could be missing out on sales to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers.
Thankfully for these retailers, Neustar fixed the problem as fast as they did.