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April 24, 2008

Slideshare, Tibet, China and DoS attacks

I Twittered briefly (yes, I know that all tweets are brief by definition) this morning that Slideshare appeared to be down again.  Within minutes I got a response from a member of staff at Slideshare indicating that they were under attack from hackers.

As an aside, I should note that this is not the first time I've received very prompt and helpful technical support as the direct result of tweeting about an issue (and not just from Slideshare either).  This feels very impressive, at least to me as an end-user of the service offering its help.  At the current stage of its development, Twitter seems very good for this right now.  I'm not sure it will last - not because the will won't be there but because the growing numbers of Twitter users will become increasingly difficult to deal with.

Anyway, it turns out (as reported by Techcrunch, SlideShare Slammed with DDOS Attacks from China) that Slideshare is suffering from a series of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks launched from somewhere in China at the moment, apparently in protest at various presentations on Slideshare covering the situation in Tibet.

Now, I'm not in a position to comment on where these attacks originate, nor why they are happening.  But I assume that they are real and, if so, that their effects can be felt by ordinary end-users of the Slideshare service.

In recent comments on my own blog post about Jorum I suggested that the global impact of services like Slideshare is hard to ignore when thinking about where content is best surfaced on the Web.  But success brings with it both negatives and positives I guess.  Most obvious are the issues around sustainability and reliability - like many such services, Slideshare uses Amazon S3 behind the scenes to help cope with peaks in demand and, by and large, it seems to do so reasonably well.  This is a different kind of threat - that success brings with it attention of a less healthy kind.  We've seen similar but different things of late with Second Life, where Linden Lab seem to have come increasingly under the scrutiny of political interests in the US - not of the direct action kind we are seeing here but certainly capable of having a significant impact on the way the service grows and develops.

I'm not suggesting this as a reason for not using the likes of Slideshare - just noting an interesting aspect of the globalised world in which we live and that service architectures and delivery models need to be mindful of those cases where the wrong kind of people want to do the wrong kind of things.  The Internet itself being a classic example I suppose.


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It sounds similar to Pakistan accidentally taking down YouTube.


What worries me is that this implies that any government can take down a web service in their country that they disapprove of.

Difficult, isn't it. I agree with Yvonne that countries shouldn't be able to take down websites hosted in other countries if they don't agree with some or all of the content, it's hard to know where to draw the line. I think it would be hard to find Government who would condone child pornography ... but what about adults? What about extreme right wing Neo-nazis?. What about sites (YouTube, Slideshare etc. etc., etc., ) where it's only a tiny % of content that you're not happy with.

I think that I've got so used to the freedom of speech in the UK, that I find it hard to understand how others can be used to tighter restrictions - though of course some things that are banned in the UK are seen as perfectly acceptable in other parts of the world.
There isn't an answer to this I don't think, though it's very annoying when you want a service & it's not working. (And isn't it just your luck that it's down the day you're trying to convince a sceptic!)

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