When Panos Ipeirotis checked his Amazon Web Services bill last week, he started to sweat. It was $1,177.76 — much more than he’d ever been charged before — and it was going up another $50 to $100 with each passing hour. He had no idea why.
Ipeirotis, an information operations professor at New York University, had created a pretty unusual spreadsheet. As part of an experiment in how to use crowdsourcing to generate descriptions of images, he had posted thumbnails of 25,000 pictures into a Google document, and then he invited people to describe the images. The problem was that these thumbnails linked back to original images stored on Amazon’s S3 storage service, and apparently, Google’s servers went slightly bonkers. “Google just very aggressively grabbed the images from Amazon again and again and again,” he says.
Soon Google had sucked nearly nine terabits of bandwidth from Ipeirotis’ Amazon storage servers. And bandwidth like that costs money.
Lucky for Ipeirotis, Amazon forgave the charges after he explained what had happened.
Ipeirotis would call it a denial of service attack, except for the fact that Amazon’s cloud scales up to meet demand. But the attack did deny him money. At least for a little while.