January 18, 2006 10:04 AM PST

Blackmailers try to black out Million Dollar Homepage

A student's popular pixel advertising site has come under a denial-of-service attack from blackmailers demanding a ransom.

The Million Dollar Homepage site is battling back a DoS onslaught that has escalated since it began last week, its owner and the site operator said Wednesday. The site, which successfully raised $1 million by selling ad space for $1 per pixel, was launched by British student Alex Tew and gained notoriety for its unique approach to online advertising.

"I can confirm that MillionDollarHomepage.com has been subjected to a distributed denial-of-service attack by malicious hackers, who have caused the site to be extremely slow loading or completely unavailable since last Thursday," Tew stated on his blog.

Million dollar Web page

The blackmailers have demanded a ransom of $50,000, said Russell Weiss, vice president of technical services at InfoRelay, which operates the site.

In a denial-of-service attack, miscreants typically flood a Web server with false requests for information, overwhelming the system and ultimately crashing it.

Attack-related "traffic on the site was sporadic last Wednesday night, but it was significant by Thursday, and it's continued to escalate," Weiss said. "Our third-party analysis has indicated 22,000 to 23,000 hosts are attacking the site, but that's probably underestimated."

As InfoRelay increased the site's resources to battle the DoS attack, the extortionists upped their attack, Weiss said. He said, however, that the site should have a permanent solution to the problem in place within the next few days. The site was online on Wednesday morning.

Tew and InfoRelay are working with the FBI on the case, Weiss added. "There are clues that a Russian group may be involved, but we'll leave that assessment up to the FBI," he said.

Security experts noted that while extortion-based DoS attacks are becoming more common, they usually target e-commerce companies or online gambling sites that stand to lose money for every second their site is down.

"The Million Dollar Homepage can be down for days and it's not as critical, but these attackers knew he had money and went after him," said Mikko Hypponen, the chief research officer at IT security company F-Secure.

InfoRelay has instructed Tew to forgo payment to the extortionists, Weiss said.

"He has been pretty calm throughout the whole time, but he's anxious to get the site under control and deliver what he promised to his customers," he noted.

21 comments

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What a bunch of jealous cowards.
See, that's what's wrong with some people. They see someone who came up with a brilliant idea on how to, legitimally, make money. Now, these jealous cowards, for lack of better word, come to attack and destroy it.

People who get into this extortion practices should get castrated and have them fed to the lions.

You can run, but you can't hide !!!
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
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Not entirely true...
You can hide in RUSSIA. They have crap for internet laws there.
Posted by (461 comments )
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this guy is a fraud!
i can't believe he's not finishing school. this guy has absolutely zero integrity. i love the original idea ever since i read about him back in the summer. if i were one of his advertisers, i'd sue him for breach of contract and deceptive advertisers.
Posted by jash69 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why?
What makes him a fraud? He has no integrity because he was able to make $1 million after dropping out of school? Do you have any idea how many people have dropped out of school to make their fortune? And do you have any clue how many of them used their new money to go back to school? On what basis do you declare this man a fraud and lacking in integrity?

And... if you were one of his advertisers, I'm sure your law suit would be thrown out. Have you ever read a contract governing online services?

Why do you immediately attack the victim of hackers? Do you feel that these hackers are providing a valuable service? That they have some right to spread virii and control people's computers to launch DoS attacks against those you don't like? Should we DDoS attack every person who dropped out of college?
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
It's a good idea, but really the page sucks
I agree that it was a great idea, he did make a lot of money from it; but it really doesn't look like a business model that will last, At least not without a few changes.

The amount of business only happens in bursts. Right now there are only a few thousand pixels left. All the ads that are currently up will not expire for about five years. That means he is not going to get any more business for five years. Nothing "new" will be on the page for five years. The page will be very out of date by that time. Without new content, people won't be visiting the page in five years.

In fact, there actually is nothing to keep people comming back for more. There is no reason anybody would view the page more than once, to see what the deal is.

I like to be informed as much as the next guy, so I do apreciate some level of advertising, however I completely dispise advertisiments (and anyone displaying them,) which are "sleezy." The MillionDollarHomepage is filled with this stuff. Maybe you need an example, here is a banner that reads "SEX." I click on the ad and up pops a web page claiming that they will "pay me to browse the internet and more if I refer my friends to do the same." Here's another one, get a free iPod, all you have to do is sign up for a few trial subscriptions to things you don't want.

This page will never really be a succes until these shortfalls are dealt with.
Posted by whiterabbit--2008 (34 comments )
Link Flag
Pardon?
Would you like some cheese with that?
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
Link Flag
You're just jealous
Why don't you come up with somethine creative and stop whining.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
Do the numbers
Think about it for a minute. The guy was able to sell 999,000 pixels without much publicity, but somehow, now he actually gets publicity, can't seem to move the last thousand or so in two weeks?

My guess is that "sold" might not exactly mean "sold"...
Posted by timb2006 (4 comments )
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Another guy trying the same thing just CHEAPER
I found this page <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.500grandhomepage.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.500grandhomepage.com</a> which is trying to do the same thing as Alex buy offering the pixels "cheaper". lol. The things people will do. I bet he'll get a few but nothing nearly close to what Alex did. Maybe the ruskies will go after him too! ha ha!
Posted by robertsull (1 comment )
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Cunning publicity stunt
No "Russian hackers" tried to blackmail him. It's just a publicity stunt to increase traffic to his lame website.
And he has not sold 990,000 pixels.

That's just another publicity stunt.
Posted by ronniecray (3 comments )
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Where did the links come from
If he didn't sell 990,000 pixels or however many, where did all the pages he linked to come from? What would the point
I'm very jealous, Its rare that something comes along to generate this much publicity and this kind of potential profit for someone.
Instead of talking about how he didn't do it or how hes making it up, why not think of your own idea. Like that guy who sold the Wedding dress on Ebay. Made a few bucks and got on TV.
Posted by AtariusRex (7 comments )
Link Flag
Good News... Bad News...
The good news is you can make a million dollars in less than a year. The bad news is you can also make a good target of criminals in the same year.

The good news is the kid's a millionare. The bad news is a lot of people are jealous and envious they attack the kid's million dollar idea with ideas of their own... ideas that never proved to be worth a dollar.

The good news is the kid's new idea of advertising online by selling/buying pixels. The bad news is someone's already capitalizing on it: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.milliondollarscript.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.milliondollarscript.com/</a> -- dunno if the kid's related to this outfit...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
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Web Traffic
Could the enormous amount of web traffic generated by getting mentioned on these websites be tied to some of these thousands of DoS attacking hosts?

TechDirt, Cnet, and Digg have all been known to bring down a page by bringing their web traffic up by huge amounts.
Posted by AtariusRex (7 comments )
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Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please Save Dave
Another young student with an idea.

http//:www.pleasesavedave.com
Posted by PleaseSaveDave (4 comments )
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