|By Robert Diamond||
|January 13, 2004 03:37 PM EST||
ColdFusion as a whole faces many challenges in the year ahead, as does each of us in the CF development community. These challenges range from those beyond our individual control, like the economy, to things that we can control like our skillsets. Then there are the unexpected challenges that get thrown at us - hackers, and whatever else crops up along the way to interfere with our sleep.
There's no magic solution to these problems, but there is a very easy way to get help with each of them, and that's to get involved in the CF community. Subscribing to CFDJ is a great start, and something I certainly advocate, but beyond the magazine are great resources and all you need to access them is to get involved.
A recent example of community help came into play when CFDJ's Web site, along with the rest of the sys-con.com family of sites was (and still is as of this writing) being hit with something symptomatic of a denial-of-service attack. Unfortunately, it's not something that can be traced to a nasty group, or to a lone nut hacker, but rather it's one that came from tons of sources functioning as attempted "spam bots" resulting in a sevenfold increase in server traffic before we were able to get a handle on it.
I can proudly report that our servers stayed up throughout the whole crisis (albeit running slower than normal), which is a testament to CFMX, some good hardware, a stable database system, and a lot of good code. As the number of simultaneous requests hitting the servers continued to increase, it again emphasized the point that I've made in this space several times - and that CFDJ covers every month - which is how important proper coding, caching, and other optimization techniques are. Not only will they help out in attacks like this, but your everyday users will appreciate them as well.
As we struggled to stop the incoming flow, we found that stepping up the security levels on our firewall, a seemingly logical first step, only provided marginal success at best since the requests weren't coming in on nonstandard ports. What eventually did do the trick was some code for Apache from Scott Wiersdorf @ www.perlcode.org/tutorials/apache/attacks.html. Basically, those brilliant nine lines of http.conf code trapped these attacks that were coming in without a user-agent, or referrer and were accessing just '/.' These requests were a) redirected back to the source (a lovely touch if you ask me and one that has certainly brought a reduction in the overall level); and b) not passed on to ColdFusion to execute, nor were they logged.
We solved this problem with Scott's hands-on help, and what this whole incident drove home for me (other than the fact that the people that come up with these attacks should be rounded up and forced into more awful things than I'm allowed to write in these pages) is another example of the fantastic developer community that's out there, and that can be called upon when in need. You don't need to wait for a disaster to strike, because staying in touch with the community can help you in your daily tasks - learning what else is out there; expanding your knowledge; and most of all staying current on trends, resources, and solutions to those problems that will undoubtedly crop up.
So if you haven't made a New Year's resolution yet, or even if you have, getting involved in the CF community is worth adding to the list (and keeping, unlike those diets and other plans). If you've been to Macromedia's conferences, user groups, or the other smaller events out there, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're an active participant in one of the many CF mailing lists or Web forums out there, then you know exactly what I'm talking about too. If you're not yet a part, then I hope to see you out there in 2004. It's going to be an exciting year.
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