Meetup.com has gone public with one of the most paltry ransom demands The Register has seen – but rather than pay up to end a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, the klatch organizer instead put up with its site being repeatedly hosed offline, we're told.
The website said its woes began on Thursday when it received a demand for a mere US$300 to halt a web traffic assault. Meetup.com CEO and co-founder Scott Heiferman posted the text of an e-mail he said he received from the extortionist:
“A competitor asked me to perform a DDoS attack on your website. I can stop the attack for $300 USD. Let me know if you are interested in my offer.”
Heiferman said the attack on his company's web servers began as soon as the message was sent, and in spite of various attempts to mitigate the assault, the incoming network flood knocked the site off the internet for 24 hours on Thursday, and again on a daily basis through to Sunday.
“While we’re confident that we’re taking all the necessary steps to protect against the threat, it’s possible that we’ll face outages in the days ahead,” Heiferman said today.
His conclusion is that the initial low-ball demand was simply a gambit: if Meetup.com had submitted to it, more money would have been demanded next time and word would have spread: “We made a decision not to negotiate with criminals”, Heiferman wrote. “This is an attack on everyone who believes that people can be powerful together.”
The Register would also speculate that the low-ball threat is designed to make any target simply pay up and shut up, leaving the attackers to move on to the next company. Either way, props to Heiferman for his response.
The company assures its users that their data has not been stolen: the DDoS attacks have been designed for the sole purpose of overwhelming the business's servers and keeping the site offline. ®