Alex Tew, who created milliondollarhomepage.com as a way of paying for college fees, received an email earlier last week demanding a ransom of $5,000 for the criminals not to launch a DoS attack against the site.
He ignored the email, and the following day, the site came under attack from zombie computers controlled by the blackmailer. A week later the ransom was upped to $50,000.
Tew confirmed on his blog that the website had "been subjected to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by malicious hackers who have caused the site to be extremely slow loading or completely unavailable since last Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006." He told the media that he hadn't replied to the extortion demands and was not intending to pay the criminals any money.
He also confirmed that the FBI had been notified. "The FBI are investigating, and I'm currently working closely with my hosting company, Sitelutions, to bring the site back online as soon as possible," said Tew.
Experts said this type of high-profile website was "ripe for this sort of cybercrime".
"What this case highlights is the need for organizations with strong brand reputations to protect and become more vigilant against this sort of malicious activity," said David Stanley, managing director, EMEA of messaging security company CipherTrust.
He added that his company had seen the number of new zombies increase by nearly 50 percent over the last six months.
"This is a prime example of the huge threat facing businesses online today. The scariest thing is the speed at which virus-infested zombies propagate. Only a few hours are needed to infect millions of machines around the world. This should really act as a call out for businesses and consumers to take responsibility and protect themselves," said Stanley.