Getting a hit man is expensive and dangerous, but if you just want to launch an attack on a web site, it's cheap: around $10 per hour.

Krebs on Security reports that for a few hundred dollars you can go to an underground forum and hire someone (evidently Russian) to mount a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on a site. DDoS attacks usually rely on botnets, or networks of computers that run malicious software that fire off requests to a web site. The owners of those computers are almost never ware they are part of an attack.

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When enough page requests are sent, the recieving site's server gets overwhelmed and crashes, shutting the site down (at least temporarily. Larger, more-trafficked sites will have better defenses, but a larger network of computers can take those down too.

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Evidently, one can hire a hacker to mount a DDoS for about $5 to $10 per hour; prices vary but for about $1,200 one can hire a DDoS attacker for a month. That puts DDoS hires in the range of just about anyone.

As an added twist, a number of underground forums even sell botnet software for do-it-yourselfers. The authors of the software (known as Darkness) claim that with 20,000 bots in the network it can take down just about any site. Like many good software packages there's even a version available for free.

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Within the hacker community there's always been a certain amount of disdain for 'script kiddies' — people who don't really understand the systems they attack but use off-the-shelf tools. But the existence of forums where you can hire hackers and freeware tools such as Darkness should put to rest the notion that an attack has to come from hackers with any skill. (Writing the software is another matter).

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