Robots Attack The Rockies

If angry fans, bad calls and injuries aren’t enough to fear, the Colorado Rockies can add robot attacks to their list of worries during this year’s World Series.

That’s right. Robots.

When the team, which uses a Paciolan platform for its ticketing system, recently held its online-only onsale for general admission seating for three home games in Denver during the Series, the Rockies’ site was flooded with ticket requests – at least 9.8 million.

Paciolan CEO Dave Butler told Pollstar that while the team had great success the day before the public onsale – selling out the entire inventory for season ticketholders "quickly and uneventfully" – there was a notable difference the next day.

"Unfortunately, 15 minutes before the start of the onsale forward, we had a huge attack of computerized robot programs against the Colorado Rockies site and the ticketing portion of which we host," Butler said.

Butler called the hits "denial of service" attacks, during which automated programs flood a site in order to take it down or gain control of it (or, in this case, gain an unfair advantage in securing tickets).

"The volume of attacks, the different method of attacks and the general nature of what the robots were doing was such that all of the hardware and software we employ to protect against this was not able to turn them away fast enough in order to get the real fans in to buy tickets," Butler said.

In fact, the programmed attacks were able to temporarily take down the Internet for Paciolan’s entire online sales system.

Officials halted the onsale, to the distress of many Rockies fans – some of whom formed lines outside Coors Field in hopes of scoring seats at the ticket window.

Butler said Paciolan officials met with their partners and Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media Group to "analyze what the attack had done to us, add additional security methods and additional signatures of their behavior in order to block them out."

They gave it a second shot the next day.

"We held the onsale again and we were again attacked in huge volume with the different robot programs," Butler said. "But we were able to successfully turn them away, let the real fans into the Web site and we sold out the World Series in a little over two hours on Tuesday."

And according to the Rockies, the 52,000 seats available for the games were sold to 16,000 fans, with more than 80 percent of them in the Colorado market, he explained, averaging out to three tickets per fan.

"If I can find a silver lining despite the fact that we disappointed the fans and the team on Monday, the good news is we now understand completely this new method of attack that’s being employed in the market and we’re able to defend against it going forward," Butler said.

But this likely won’t be the last time an MLB team will face such attacks. Defending against resellers could become a common occurrence in the sport, given the recent inking of a deal between the league and StubHub.

StubHub becomes the official online provider of secondary tickets for beginning with the 2008 season, and will gain exclusive rights to the online secondary ticket sales of each participating MLB team.