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What Happened when Google Got Spammed?

The world’s largest — and most lucrative — search engine had two pieces of news yesterday. One, which was much reported, was that Google raised its IPO size by $1.1 billion. The other piece of news — which went mostly unnoticed — was that spammers had brought down the search engine for about three hours in the morning. During that period, untold number of Google users got error messages or waited for longer periods to get their results.

The culprit was a barrage of search queries from computers infected with variants of the MyDoom virus, a worm coded by a German high school student. The queries had significantly slowed down Google’s response and caused the outage.

The incident illustrates that a determined spammer can bring Google’s network to its knees with a relatively small army of hijacked PCs. That’s a troubling prospect for a company known for its ability to deliver reliable, lightning-fast search results around the clock. Equally troubling, MyDoom shows that Google will increasingly struggle to differentiate bogus queries from legitimate requests as hackers get smarter.

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