The Million Dollar Home Page comes under fire

The wildly successful pixel-powered Web page of a British university student is coming under increasingly intense DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks trying to knock down the profitable brainstorm.

Alex Tew, who created The Million Dollar Homepage to finance his schooling, has been selling pixels for US$1 each since September and auctioned the last 1,000 pixels earlier this week on eBay Inc. The technicolor site resembles a well-traveled suitcase covered with stickers, ranging from Che Guevara’s image to a stop-smoking ad to a yellow smiley, all leading to paid links.

Wide media coverage of the 21-year-old’s project has caused high traffic to the site. At times, it has surged to 200 megabits per second, said Russell Weiss, vice president of technical services for InfoRelay Online Systems Inc., which hosts Tew’s site under its Sitelutions service. InfoRelay’s services include Web page hosting, domain registration and e-mail backup.

The site is hosted on a server in Ashburn, Virginia, in a data center run by Equinix Inc., where InfoRelay has much of its hardware, Weiss said. The high bandwidth use didn’t cause problems for InfoRelay, as the company has a multigigabit network and provides bandwidth for a major search engine, Weiss said.

But The Million Dollar HomePage attracted malicious attention, coming under DDOS fire late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, he said.

Officials from InfoRelay met to figure out what they could do to stem the attacks within the constraints of Tew’s service package, Weiss said. Tew wasn’t on an enterprise-level deal that often includes advanced hardware, from vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc., used to prevent the effects of DDOS attacks, Weiss said.

Administrators implemented several proprietary internal techniques to slow and alleviate the effects, he said. “We sort of volunteered our time to do what we could,” Weiss said.

The attacks are coming from computers worldwide, including the U.S., Europe and Asia, Weiss said. The attacks could be the work of a botnet — a network of computers illegally commandeered for sending spam and DDOS attacks.

InfoRelay has been in contact with law enforcement about the attacks, and has worked with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation before, Weiss said. “We don’t like to see this,” he said. “It is illegal.”

While Tew reportedly implored friends and family to buy pixels on the site at first, and attention snowballed as the project continued. He hit his $1 million goal in ads, although Tew wrote in his blog that he was waiting to confirm bids and payment before announcing who purchased the last 1,000 pixels.

Tew has said he will keep the site up for five years, and advertisers are prohibited from reselling their pixels.

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