Trying to squelch a fundraiser: the attacks on the Extra Life website

As many of you may know, I have been a participant in the Extra Life fundraising campaign since 2010, the last year that the sole beneficiary was Texas Children’s Hospital (in 2011 it would be expanded to raise funds for all Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the US and Canada). Yesterday evening through this morning (I’m writing this late Sunday night) we wrapped up another overnight gaming marathon and it will be recapped on my other blog, Quinn’s Big City,which I am slowly but surely getting back to posting to. Suffice it to say it was probably about as wild a party as we could possibly have had without alcohol.

But that’s not the reason for this post. Before leaving for my night of game-filled zaniness, I first had to drop a few dollars in the hat. That “hat” was across cyberspace on the Extra Life website. And instead of getting there, I kept getting a “Connection timed out” error. I would find out later that the Extra Life website was affected by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. At first the reports were worded such that the attack could have been aimed at another site at the datacenter. However, as a second, third, and fourth attack would hit later that night, I’m strongly convinced now that Extra Life was in fact the main target of the DDoS attacks and not merely collateral damage.

Now when DDoS attacker-activists hit the websites of the RIAA, the MPAA, the US Copyright Office, Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, the FBI, the NSA… it’s either crystal clear what their message is or at worst, it can be deduced with a little detective work. And in some cases at least it makes sense. The act still violates the letter of the law and is usually a felony, though we still have jury nullification so a conviction is far from guaranteed.

I fail to get what anyone gains from keeping people from donating to a charity. The publicity, if anything, has led to an increase in donations when the site was eventually brought back up. And the donation period for Extra Life actually extends through December 31 (there’s an official make-up date for the marathon as well as time allowed for cash and check donations to be turned in). Not only do these DDoS attacks on the Extra Life website make no sense to me, but I find it especially horrifying that someone would attack a charitable effort, especially one of this type. I hope whoever is behind this gets caught and, perhaps more importantly, that we find a way to prevent this kind of thing going forward.

By the way, the fundraising total is over $3.6 million as of this morning. So besides getting the attacks into the news, the DDoS attackers didn’t really succeed in anything besides incurring civil and criminal liability for themselves. Put another way: Charitable gamers 4, DDoS attackers 0.