Was Yesterday’s Twitter DDoS Attack Cyber Warfare

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Twitter bites the dust again, along with FaceBook, LiveJournal and even YouTube…

Yesterday, August 6, 2009, will be talked about on the web for a long time. Twitter succumbed to a DDoS attack (distributed denial of service attack) and was down for several hours. Here’s what Twitter had to say about the day’s events. The attack was unprecedented in it’s size and scope, as outlined by Washington Post staff writer Monica Hesse:

“Ben Rushlo, director of Internet technologies at Keynote, a Web site-monitoring firm in San Mateo, Calif., called the attack “the largest and most extensive outage” the company has tracked against a social networking site. “I haven’t seen anything quite this significant on a major site,” Rushlo said.”

As the day wore on, many of us who had moved our normal Twitter activities to FriendFeed and FaceBook, realized that FaceBook wasn’t behaving normally either and late in the day, our suspicions were confirmed. The attack on Twitter was also directed at FaceBook. for hours, as CNN, BBC, Yahoo and others reported on this remarkable incident, there was a great deal of speculation as to what caused the outage. I like Time’s account of the situation, along with the clear explanation of exactly what constitutes a DDoS attack.

For a long time there has been speculation on what might happen if warring factions chose to make the internet their arena for war. Maybe yesterday we got a taste of it.

Cnet was first to break the story that the DDoS attack actually targetted a single, Georgian blogger who has been giving the Russian forces a run for their money.

A blogger called Graham Cluley expanded on the theory and proves he mentioned the possibility some time ago.

Graham suggests that:

“[Yesterday’s attacks] may have actually set out to silence only one person – an anti-Russian blogger called Cyxymu from Tbilisi.”

He went on to talk about the circumstances that may have led up to the attack, and also mentions that he has talked about online skirmishes between Georgia and Russia in the past.

“By the way, long term readers of the Clu-blog may recall that I have blogged about cyber warfare between Russia and Georgia before. Read “Conflict between Russia and Georgia turns to cyber warfare” and “Update on website attacks in Georgia and Russia” for instance.”

I, and other Twitter users, it seems, found it a strange coincidence that just earlier this week the US Marines were banned from using social media.

Could it be that military intelligence somehow got wind of the skirmish between Russia and Georgia once again being played out on the Web? Just a thought.

For most of us, there’s very little likelihood that our personal websites will ever be made the target of such an attack, but it’s obvious that larger websites and portals carry a lot of risk. So it should be a matter of urgency for their security experts to get together and tighten up the situation so that this kind of thing can’t happen so very easily. And government departments everywhere, beware, this is a lesson in how easy it could be for them to be compromised too.

As mentioned by Time, one of the ways hacker’s can launch a DDoS attack is by turning ordinary computers into Zombies. We can all contribute to the Web’s protection by keeping our security systems up-to-date. It’s basic but very effective. If you do find yourself the target of a DDoS attack, this article over at ArabCrunch may be of use. I have a feeling that yesterday’s events will trigger the emergence of new technology to stop this blight, and I look forward to it.

Patricia Skinner is an SEO consultant, social media coach & reputation management expert. She is also community leader at the nascent SEO Self Regulation Community. She can be reached any time through her SEO website. Why not follow her on Twitter & her LinkedIn profile.

Patricia Skinner
Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social Director at Mideast SEO, and spends her days doing what she loves best; cooking up winning strategies... Read Full Bio
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  • Eldinovsky


    Last sentence is so stupid and for little kids age 5. Why?
    If you keep your computer up to date, and all those stuff needed for “normal” working, you are not even with that prepared for DDoS attacks.

    Computers with very fast internet connections comes together and sending too many packages to one adress or one computer, and those attacked computers are not able to opet all those packages, that’s why is connection too much slow or “dead” for time DDoS attacks are “active”

    There is no possible protection for DDoS except hardware devices made for that and dedicated servers which isolate IP adresses from attackers.

    Update od your computer doesn’t have nothing with protection of DDoS.

    • Patricia Skinner

      Thanks for your kind contribution Eldinosky: valid point.

      I didn’t mean to insult you–but there are those of us who could learn a thing-or-two from a five-year-old. 🙂

      Also, I wasn’t suggesting that keeping your computer’s protection up-to-date could avert a major attack like yesterday, but every day smaller websites fall victim to DDoS attacks. We could prevent those maybe, no?

  • Michael

    Keeping your computer’s protection up-to-date could prevent it from becoming one of the thousands of zombie machines used in a DDoS attack.

  • karyna

    well, aren’t they attacking servers ? Livejournal has been dead for a long while now. Some servers with some blogs work, some are not. I think it has nothing to do with your personal computer, they are trying to get large servers of social networks. Besides, you can not post anything in your blog with the name Cyxymu. So, your personal computer is not a target for these hackers.

    • karyna

      your personal computer is a tool for them.