Massive attack

Every year, artists and technology enthusiasts meet in Linz, Austria, for the Ars Electronica Festival, a meetup in the city’s downtown, located just off the Danube River. The festival is a haven for those with an eye toward the future — something between Burning Man and a TED conference, with visitors navigating scientific equipment, LED lights, and colorful installations. International visitors for the event are common enough, but the 1998 festival featured an unlikely participant: the Pentagon.

That year, members of an art group called the Electronic Disturbance Theater were invited to demonstrate a program called FloodNet. Billed as a “virtual sit-in,” users navigated to the FloodNet website at a predetermined time, and through a simple Java tool, were directed to a targeted website that would reload constantly, every few seconds. With enough people — perhaps thousands — the sit-in caused targeted websites to slow or maybe even crash, rendering them intermittently inaccessible.

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