I Participated in the DOS Attack on eBay Last Night – and so did you!

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

Contributed by Bob Snow

I was unable to use the search function on eBay last night and found this official statement on the eBay announcement board:

User: aw@ebay.com
Date: 02/08/00
Time: 16:32:23 PST

We are experiencing an external denial of service attack. Please note that this does not compromise any data, but it does impact accessibility to the site. For a good majority of our users, access to the site is still available.

We are taking multiple measures to fight this, including working with our ISPs to identify the sources and to take appropriate measures.

We will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available.


I am skeptical. I know I am working with much less information, but here is what I found. I was unable to access the search function at eBay using Explorer 4.5 and Mac OS 9 last night, 2/8/00. When I switched to Netscape Navigator 4.7.1 and iCab, I was able to access the search function. eBay had completely revamped their search pages earlier in the day:

User: aw@ebay.com
Date: 02/08/00
Time: 11:10:10 PST

For the last several weeks, we have previewed the new Search pages and many of you have provided us with valuable input and suggestions regarding these improvements. eBay is growing, and more and more unique items are available on eBay. These Search improvements have been designed to help you find exactly what you are looking for – faster and easier. And, today, we plan to introduce these improvements to the site.

We’re very excited about these improvements, and we hope that you find these improvements helpful in your Search experience. We look forward to continuing our work with you to improve Search. Thanks again for your input and participation in making the improvements happen!


I find the fact that the new search pages were added earlier in the day and the problems I had, only using the search function and only with Explorer 4.5 compelling. Perhaps the “attack” came from Mac users simply using their default browser. This morning, 9AM- 2/9/00 Explorer 4.5 can now successfully search eBay along with my other browsers. Was some glitch fixed?

Don’t get me wrong, I think eBay is a very good service and have been a satisfied customer for quite some time. It would actually be good news in the long run for eBay and other web based enterprises if this was not a coordinated attack and just some glitch in implementing some new functions.

An interesting side note, this Wired news article seems to counter Yahoo’s claim of an attack. Could it be possible that these outages were not coordinated attacks, just bad programming>

Again, I think the eBay outage was due to their revised search function and poor Mac compatibility, NOT a coordinated attack. My theory: Many thousands of Macs running Explorer 4.5 were tying up the system trying to access the new search function.

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