A broadcast storm is the situation in which messages broadcast on a network cause multiple hosts to respond simultaneously by broadcasting their own messages, which, in turn, prompts further messages to be broadcast, and so on.
A broadcast is the transmission of a single message to all hosts on the network simultaneously. A host is a computer that is connected to the network.
This snowballing effect (i.e., exponential growth) can have a serious negative effect on network performance and lead to a network meltdown. A network meltdown is the situation in which a network functions poorly or ceases to function as a result of excessive traffic.
Broadcast storms are usually caused by misconfigured network software that results in the creation of erroneous packets. They can also be instigated by denial of service (DoS) attacks, commonly those in which a large amount of ping traffic is sent to a broadcast address.
Broadcast storms can usually be prevented by the careful configuration of networks, including balancing the number of nodes on each network segment and the judicious use of firewalls.
Created November 15, 2005.