Twitter suffered service problems from hacker attacks on Thursday.
Users of the micro-blogging service Twitter are used to seeing the fail whale, a graphic that appears when the service’s capacity is overloaded. During the denial-of-service (DoS) attack, however, the site was left completely unreachable for around 90 minutes. This means a hacker used a herd of infected computers to send communication requests to overwhelm its servers. At the same time, a terse message on the site’s status blog said it was down. A while later, it added, “We are defending against a DoS attack and will update our status again shortly.”
Facebook and other social networking sites appeared to have been affected by Twitter’s shutdown as the latter runs applications through these sites. As such, there were speculations that the glitches were related.
This is not the first time that Twitter has fallen prey to cybercriminal attacks. The following blog posts point out just some of the recent attacks on the sites:
- Malicious Twitter Posts Get More Personal
- Koobface Increases Twitter Activity
- Koobface Tweets
- Bogus Facebook Malware and a Dancing Girl
- New Koobface Upgrade Makes It Takedown Proof
Because Twitter is one the fastest-growing Internet companies today, it is not surprising that companies use its services to know more about their prospective employees and keep in touch with their clients. In fact, Twitter’s number of unique visitors worldwide reached 44.5 million in June, up 15-fold year over year, according to comScore data. As such, companies that heavily rely on the site’s services may incur losses due to this most recent attack.
There are speculations that the attack was not like a botnet-style distributed DoS (DDoS) attack. According to The Register, the torrent of traffic that brought the site down resulted from myriads of people clicking a link in spammed messages referencing a well-known blogger called Cyxymu at the same time. They contained links to Cyxymu’s Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and YouTube accounts, all of which have been reported to receive abnormal amounts of traffic. The theory was backed by an article from CNET News, which quoted Facebook’s chief security officer saying the attacks targeting multiple websites all contained traffic linking to accounts held by Cyxymu.
A few days after the attack, several theories as to who and what were behind the Twitter attack surfaced. But the prevailing theory, according to Brian Krebs, “suggests that the outage was due to a cyber skirmish stemming from simmering tensions between Russia and Georgia.”
News sites CNet News and CNN opine that “the outage at Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook and LiveJournal) was due to an effort to silence an anti-Russian blogger from Tbilisi who has been calling attention to a recent resurgence of tensions in the region.”