Anonymous Versus the Market

Thumbnail image for

As you may know, Anonymous--the cyberguerilla group founded at 4chan--tried to take down Amazon's servers with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, in which the group and its supporters would essentially flood the company's servers with requests, making it impossible for real customers to get through.  This sort of attack has crashed the websites of a lot of vulnerable companies and institutions.  But in the case of Amazon, Anonymous found it was simply too puny compared with the titanic force the company had already encountered, and overcome: the power of Christmas.

Amazon has famously massive server capacity in order to handle the December e-commerce rush. That short holiday shopping window is so critical, and so intense, that even a few minutes of downtime could cost Amazon millions.

So Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) has spent years creating and refining an "elastic" infrastructure, called EC2, designed to automatically scale to handle giant traffic spikes. The company has so much spare server capacity, in fact, that it runs a sideline business hosting other websites. Its customers include the New York Times, Second Life, Etsy, Playfish, the Indianapolis 500 and the Washington Post.

. . . Amazon's entire business model is built around handling intense traffic spikes. The holiday shopping season essentially is a month-long DDoS attack on Amazon's servers -- so the company has spent lavishly to fortify itself.

Anonymous quickly figured that out. Less than an hour after setting its sights on Amazon, the group's organizers called off the attempt. "We don't have enough forces," they tweeted.

As any number of central banks have found, even a group of clever and hardworking people feverishly dedicated to defending their ideals is no match for a market herd with one eye on the price ticker and the other on their wallets.