A packet monkey is a derogatory term for a person who floods a website with data packets, creating a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. In such an attack the Web server slows or even crashes, becoming unavailable for regular business. While a DoS attack might sound difficult and even sophisticated to the casual computer user, a packet monkey uses software scripts written by others and has no real personal experience or understanding of hacking. Packet monkeys along with script kiddies are considered childish wanna-bes in the hacker community.
The Internet uses a standardized communication protocol so that any network or personal computer that conforms to the protocol can partake of the global network. This protocol takes data and breaks it into many smaller parts called data packets. Sending small packets along various routes improves transfer speed. At the destination address the data packets reunite to form the complete, original file. You can think of online data then as a jigsaw puzzle that is disassembled, sent in pieces, and reassembled.
In a DoS attack, a packet monkey uses a malicious script to direct a continuous flood of data packets at a Web server. Not only is the Web server overwhelmed by the sheer number of packets, but the reassembly process fails, causing error after error. Processing power taps out as reverberations build exponentially, and in severe cases, the server crashes, or goes offline. DoS attacks have been waged on several well-known websites and government sites at costs estimated to be many millions or even billions of dollars.
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If a packet monkey doesn’t score points in the hacker community by pulling such a stunt, risking arrest and prosecution, why do it? These are commonly youngsters looking for bragging rights among their peers. Using tools someone else scripted to carry out a DoS attack won’t impress hackers, but it might impress friends. Kids might also use a DoS attack to build a reputation.
Unfortunately packet monkeys and script kiddies won’t be going away anytime soon. Malicious scripts are available ‘in the wild’ and there will always be a newer, younger generation willing to use them.
The online hacking community believes packet monkeys and script kiddies give hackers a bad name. The skill set of a true hacker will allow him or her to infiltrate a network, explore it, then slip out without leaving a trace. While there are malicious hackers, many make good money working for institutions that pay them to find and fix vulnerabilities in their networks. A packet monkey, by contrast, engages in what amounts to "online arson" using a borrowed lighter.