• United States

Blaster, blackout combination boon for some

Aug 15, 20034 mins

This week’s combination of an Internet worm infestation and a major power blackout in the U.S. and Canada were hassles for most organizations, but the combination was a boon for some companies that offer business continuity services.

Akamai said that Thursday was the busiest day ever, in terms of traffic, on its global computer network.

The combination of anxious Windows users downloading software updates from Akamai customer Microsoft kept the company’s network busy all week, according to Andy Ellis, chief security architect at Akamai.

Visitors to Microsoft sites such as are directed to one of thousands of servers on Akamai’s global network, enabling Microsoft to offload Internet traffic spikes and blunting the effects of Internet attacks.

Thursday afternoon added traffic from a flood of Internet users curious about reports of power blackouts in New York and other cities in the U.S. and Canada. Visitors rushed to the Web sites of news organizations that use Akamai, pushing traffic totals to a new high, Ellis said.

The result was record traffic on Akamai’s servers Thursday, exceeding the surge on Sept. 11, 2001, when Internet users worldwide went to online news sites looking for information on terrorist attacks in the U.S., Ellis said.

“Traffic was up a decent percentage over the previous peak day,” Ellis said of Thursday.

Technicians at emergency e-mail messaging provider MessageOne of Austin, Texas, had a similar story to tell.

The company’s Emergency Messaging System (EMS) service relies on a network of Linux and secure open-source technologies to act as a backup for multiple messaging servers using disparate platforms, said Michael Rosenfelt, vice president of marketing at MessageOne.

To use the backup system, mail administrators modify their company’s DNS schema, adding the IP address of the EMS backup server as a low-level mail exchange record that will be used if the other listed mail servers are unavailable.

MessageOne’s customers include major banks, brokerage houses and law firms in Manhattan and elsewhere, including T Rowe Price Investment Services.

MessageOne was already managing a busy workload before Thursday’s power blackout. MessageOne had been called into action by three customers that were infected by the Blaster worm earlier in the week.

Then the lights went out in New York, Cleveland, Detroit and other cities.

“We got our first call at 4:06 p.m. from a customer in Cleveland,” Rosenfelt said.

After that, calls started rolling in from customers throughout the eastern U.S., he said.

“Our activations and our phone lines lit up as the geography affected went dark. You could just see it roll,” Rosenfelt said.

In all, MessageOne is providing emergency e-mail service for 22 customers that were put offline by the power blackout. Privately held MessageOne declined to say how many customers it has.

During the blackout, employees of companies that are MessageOne customers could access corporate e-mail accounts with a Web browser and an Internet connection, Rosenfelt said.

Seven of those companies have since “recovered,” meaning that they used the MessageOne emergency service and then restored their own e-mail systems, he said.

Though weary after a week of high activity, both Ellis and Rosenfelt were gratified by the performance of their companies’ technologies.

With massive Blaster-induced DOS attacks planned for the weekend, Ellis expressed confidence in the company’s network and said it will be business as usual at Akamai.

“We haven’t yet seen any performance impact due to the (Blaster) attacks. We’re going to stay the current course and speed,” he said.

Though MessageOne has had customers fall back on its services before, the events of the past week make the company feel “proven and battle tested,” Rosenfelt said.

“Let’s face it, as unfortunate as these events are, they’re wake-up calls,” he said.