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A degradation of service attack is basically a DoS attack with slightly less intensity and severity. Like a DoS attack, a degradation of service attack works by employing a series of remote zombie or compromised computers that are infected with malware or a virus. These zombie computers simultaneously send a network/service request to the target system or website with the intention of slowing it down. Once successfully initiated, a degraded website or system becomes highly prone to a DoS attack.
Further, some hackers, malicious activists and even network/security administrators use degradation of service attacks to check or test the strength of a website/system against a full scale DoS attack.