A screenshot from the Anonymous press release regarding Thursday’s attack on the Boston Children’s Hospital website.
A screenshot from the Anonymous press release regarding Thursday’s attack on the Boston Children’s Hospital website.
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Members of the notorious hacktivist collective Anonymous launched a coordinated cyber attack on the Boston Children’s Hospital website today—but what exactly does that mean?

A distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS for short, is often incorrectly portrayed as an act of computer hacking, though in actuality the process is far less sophisticated.

During an DDoS attack, users—sometimes numbering in the hundreds or even thousands—overwhelm a website’s host server with connection requests, slowing the website to a crawl or even causing it to crash entirely.

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Some willingly participate in such an attack, either by repeatedly refreshing the page or using applications developed to automate the process. Others unknowingly participate when their computers are infected by malware that carries out the attack unbeknownst to the user.

The technique has been used by hacktivists of all stripes against targets like Paypal, the Church of Scientology and Wikileaks.