Attacks On Twitter, Other Social Media Targeted Single Account

August 10th, 2009 at 12:00 am

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If you remembered or experienced that Twitter went down for several hours Thursday of last week, you probably may have known by now that it was caused by a denial of service attack. It seems that this attack not only affected Twitter but also other social media sites as well such as Facebook, LiveJournal, Google’s Blogger and YouTube. Those online social media sites that were affected by the attacks all have something in common- a pro-blogger hailing from the Republic of Georgia held accounts on all of them.

Reports have come out that during the ensuing investigation about the attack, those in the know were able to pinpoint the Georgian pro-blogger going by the account name of "Cyxymu" was the primary target for the denial of service attacks that caused problems for the popular online media sites. The said attack caused the outage of Twitter along with LiveJounal and caused problems along different levels for Facebook, and the other social media sites where Cyxymu has accounts.

The attacks were reported to have been carried out simultaneously, probably to keep the Georgian pro-blogger quiet. Suspects for the said attacks included the KGB as well as privately operating hackers. Although the reason behind the attacks still remains unknown, the targeted user blamed Russia’s federal security service to be behind the denial of service attacks. The Georgian pro-blogger is known to be critical of Russia and its dealings with its ongoing conflict with the Republic of Georgia.

A distributed denial of service attack happens when thousands and thousands of different computers worldwide tries to visit a certain Website simultaneously, usually also multiple times. The sudden huge surge of requests can cause the website to break down, just as what happened last Thursday to Twitter. The attack possibly made use of botnets, networks of online PC’s around the world unknowingly infected with viruses and malware that allows botnet owners to control them. Attackers can instruct this huge global network of PC’s to do a variety of things, including a DoS attack.

What makes this case quite difficult to solve is that DoS attacks are hard to prove since its impossible to track down the initial source of the attacks. The public may only know who the perpetrators are if they took credit for such attacks themselves. But no one has yet come forward and everything is still considered as speculation. But the DoS attack definitely occurred to those who experienced it first hand. Is this how the cyber wars of the future tend to start out?