The 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.
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