Googlewhacked! Hackers bring down search engine

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The Independent Online

Google, the internet's most popular search engine, yesterday came under attack from computer hackers who timed their strike to coincide with the company's long-awaited announcement on the value of its public flotation.

Google, the internet's most popular search engine, yesterday came under attack from computer hackers who timed their strike to coincide with the company's long-awaited announcement on the value of its public flotation.

The company said its major search engines were flooded with a new variant of the MyDoom virus which caused the system to slow and fail, bringing frustration for users.

Similar attacks were launched on Yahoo, AltaVista and Lycos but with less impact. In a statement, the company said: "The Google search engine experienced slowness for a short period of time because of the MyDoom virus, which flooded major search engines with automated searches. A small number of users and networks that have the MyDoom virus have been affected for a longer period of time."

Knowledge of the trouble began to circulate through internet chatrooms at around 4pm yesterday as Google began to falter. One entry on an internet chatroom said: "Google's down!?!?!?!? Forgive me while I stock up on water and ammunition."

But the system was expected to be fully functional again today and appeared to have recovered by last night.

The attack began as Google executives in Los Angeles announced that the company was worth more than $36bn (£20bn).

The company, based in Mountain View, California, announced its plans to float on the Nasdaq exchange in April and is offering shares, worth an estimated $3.3bn, to the public.Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders, are expected to make millions from the public float of their company.

The MyDoom-O variant spreads in the form of an e-mail attachment which claims that senders' personal computers have been used by hackers to send spam.

Previous versions of MyDoom have launched distributed denial of service attacks on websites such as Microsoft. Infected computers are used to bombard targeted websites with bogus data packages that paralyse them.

Mr Brin, 32 and Mr Page, 33, founded the company in their garage at the dawn of the dotcom boom after meeting at Stanford University. They began work on a search engine called Backrub in 1996, refining their methods and technology until they established Google in 1998. The site soon found itself featured in USA Today and Le Monde, in France, and during the next five years, the number of employees rose from three to 1,900.

Google is a play on the word googol, coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. It represents the figure one followed by 100 zeros.

Google is now based at Mountain View in the heart of California's Silicon Valley and is famed for its laid-back staff ethic. Perks include weekly games of roller-hockey in the car park and an on-site masseuse, while each member of the team is given one day a week to spend on "pet projects".

Graham Cluley, a technology consultant at Oxford-based anti-virus firm Sophos, said the MyDoom "worm" had been spread by e-mail. "When it infects one computer it not only looks for e-mail addresses on that computer it looks for e-mail addresses via search engines as well," he said.

"It is likely that Google were receiving a very large number of requests for information more than they normally get because the virus just kept on going to it and saying 'Give me more e-mail addresses'."

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