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  ‘Second Life’ Attack Throws Avatars Sky-High  
Posted 2006-04-16 by Tony Walsh
Yesterday evening the virtual world of Second Life ground to a halt, due a deliberate, user-created software attack. Like previous attacks, this latest was launched from within the virtual world itself, relying on self-replicating objects to overwhelm Second Life's servers. Unlike previous attacks, the self-replicating objects were scripted to emit shockwaves capable of throwing avatars high into the air. The outage took about seven hours for the world's maker, Linden Lab, to fully recover from. A cluster of similar outages last year resulted in Linden Lab deploying a giant firewall to contain affected within 45 minutes of the launch of the attack. The company doesn't appear to have used that containment method this time.

ElleCoyote explains what the attack was like from inside Second Life: "...suddenly my entire gallery blew up and I was thrown into the night sky. On attempted re-entry to [Second Life] I captured this image of my experience of flailing helplessly, skates useless, high above Palomarian."

The Second Life Herald published an ealier report about yesterday's outage, including a picture of the "red helix" objects used in the attack. According to the Herald, "The attack was said to be the third in as many days." While I've noticed a number of log-in problems over the last several days, it seems that any attacks earlier in the week were limited in scope. While I understand attacks of this nature are difficult--perhaps even impossible--to prevent (due to Second Life allowing residents to deploy potentially-harmful software in-world), I have to wonder why Linden Lab's response time was so slow, given that the company has had ample practice in dealing with global denial of service attacks in the past.
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