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The bland name hides the lethal intent of DDoS when aimed at financial institutions, an event that has become increasingly common as dozens of large banks have recently found their online operations crippled, sometimes for days by highly skilled cyber-attackers.

DDoS, distributed denial of service, works by overwhelming a designated Web target with traffic, in many cases 100 times the normal traffic, possibly 1,000 times more throughput. The site responds by shutting down, meaning that legitimate users, members who want to log in to check balances or pay a bill, cannot do so. Usually what they see is a “This site is unavailable” notice, and the site may be down for a few hours, possibly a couple of days.

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