20101206 wikileaks 35
A woman reads a WikiLeaks page on December 6, 2010 in Washington, D.C. WikiLeaks has divulged a secret list compiled by Washington of key infrastructure sites around the world that could pose a critical threat to U.S. security if they come under terrorist attack. - 

A DDoS attack floods a website's servers with so much traffic, so many requests for content, that the servers get overwhelmed and shut down. Of course, calling together a ton of actual people to all go to a site at a particular time is challenging. So many attackers employ botnets (we talked about them on yesterday's show too): vast armies of computers that have been infected and made to do the bidding of a mastermind who controls them. The owners of the computers on the botnet have no idea they are doing this; these are computers owned by your friends and neighbors who might have clicked on a weird link once and that's all it took.

If you don't happen to already own your own botnet, no problem, you can rent one through numerous black market avenues.

Hal Roberts of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society tells us that these attacks are gradually increasing and it's creating a bit of a haves and have-nots situation for web companies. If you are a huge and powerful company, you have the means to defend against such attacks. If you're a small website with limited resources, it's much harder to fight off. At that point, it becomes something of a free speech issue as it becomes easier and easier to simply shut down anyone saying something you don't want them to be saying.

We're also joined by Sven Dietrich; he's on faculty in the computer science department at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He explains what your computer may be doing behind your back and how much easier these attacks are to launch.

Also in this show, researchers at George Mason University are data-mining the titles of over a million and a half books from 19th century England, attempting a quantitative literary analysis of what life was like back then.