Attack That Took Down Twitter May've Been Aimed at Just One Blogger

By Aline Reynolds | August 7, 2009 2:46 pm

TwitterThe cyber-attack that temporarily disabled Twitter and compromised Facebook and LiveJournal was politically motivated and was directed at a pro-Georgian blogger called Cyxymu, says a representative from Facebook.

The attack, which paralyzed Twitter for two hours and “degraded” service on Facebook, was one known as a distributed denial of service attack. This technique uses a network of tens of thousands of compromised computers, known as a “botnet”, to flood a website’s servers with page view requests, leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through. This huge amount of connection requests can quickly overwhelm a server and, in some cases, cause an entire website to crash [Telegraph]. It seems Twitter, a relatively new service with a U.S.-based infrastructure, couldn’t handle the surge in traffic, while Facebook and Google, which have many key services located internationally, were better-prepared for it.

It has not been confirmed who perpetrated the attack, but the blogger says he believes it could have been an attempt by the Russian government to squelch his criticism of over Russia’s conduct in the war over the disputed South Ossetia region, which began a year ago today. “Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I’m certain the order came from the Russian government” [Guardian], the blogger said. Such a widespread attack, some believe, would only be possible if the coordinator of the attack had access to significant resources.

The attack might have actually been the second wave against the blogger, the first wave being a burst of spam email messages, Cyxymu says. “It started when hundreds of thousands of spam emails supposedly from me were sent all over the world suggesting for people to visit one of my blogs. So thousands of people visited it causing it to freeze, and they [LiveJournal] had to block it again. Then the same thing happened with Facebook and Twitter” [Guardian]. 

This isn’t the first time Twitter has been the victim of an attack since the site’s founding in 2006. Luckily, though, this attack did not compromise any user data, but instead simply disrupted service, said Twitter co-founder Biz Stone to the BBC.

Related Content:
80beats: Twitter Security Breach Reveals Confidential Company Documents
80beats: Cyber Attack Hits Government Web Sites; North Korea Is Blamed
80beats: Researchers Guess Social Security Numbers From Public Data

Image: flickr / Mykl Roventine

  • yellowdingo

    Always nice to now why i didnt have Hotmail access for hours…

  • Kin

    Well duh, because you haven’t switched over to gmail yet.
    Gmail can forward all your hotmail email to your gmail account, so you dont have to worry about people who still send you stuff there.

  • Sean

    Very cool article, but… “May’ve”?

  • Xyz

    A conspiracy theorist whom no one has heard of thinks the KGB is out the silence him. This isn’t science. This isn’t even likely. What’s the next headline? “Crackpot Says Global Warming Caused by Illuminati”? If you ask me, this is just Twitter trying to stay relevant after the Iran “Revolution” by trying to look like its the preferred tool of oppressed political activists everywhere. How are they doing on that $400,000 they thought they’d make this quarter? Delusions of grandeur, much?

  • W

    Xyz – ““Crackpot Says Global Warming Caused by Illuminati”?”

    Lol! 😀

  • James

    Xyz is probably right, but the comment “This isn’t even likely” is ignorant. Why isn’t it likely? Why wouldn’t the russian government do this? They know they will not get caught! They also know that anybody who comes forward will be labeled a “conspiracy theorist” or “crackpot” and nobody will take them seriously. They know these things so than can do anything they want. Anybody who thinks they can trust the government is a damn fool! Remember, years ago people said it wasn’t likely that the earth was round. Now we know better. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, IT JUST HASN’T HAPPENED YET!


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