Outage not down to cyber attack, says Amazon

Ecommerce giant Amazon.com has said that an outage suffered by some of its websites was caused by a hardware problem, and not a cyber attack as rumoured.

On Sunday evening, several Europe-based sites owned by the online retailer fell offline for about 30 minutes. These included its UK portal, Amazon.co.uk.

Soon after the outage, rumours began circulating that the company had been the victim of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) from cyber activist group Anonymous. A message posted on on micro-blogging site Twitter, apparently by an Anonymous respresentative, suggested that this was indeed the case.

However, Amazon was quick in issuing its denial. "The brief interruption to our European retail sites last night was due to hardware failure in our European data centre network and not the result of a [distributed denial of service] attempt," a spokesperson for Amazon told BBC News.

Earlier this month, Amazon disconnected servers used by controversial whistle blower website Wikileaks hosted on its EC2 cloud computing service. Amazon claims that the Wikileaks material, which consisted of confidential diplomatic correspondence, was in breach of the company’s terms and conditions.

Several other organisations that have severed ties with Wikileaks, including payments processors PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, have since seen their web operations interrupted as a result of cyber attacks by Anonymous.

Anonymous now appears to corroborate Amazon’s claim. "While it is indeed possible that Anonymous may not have been able to take Amazon.com down in a DDoS attack, this is not the only reason the attack never occurred," read a statement apparently published by the group. "After the attack was so advertised in the media, we felt that it would affect people such as consumers in a negative way and make them feel threatened by Anonymous."

Members of Anonymous are loosely affiliated with the image board website 4chan, and earlier this year orchestrated DDoS attacks against several film and music industry organisations. The Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and law firm ACS:Law were all targeted by the group as part of pro-file-sharing campaign.

Julian Assange, editor of the Wikileaks websites, is currently in Wandsworth prison awaiting extradition to Sweden on sex charges.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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