It appears the hackers may have been attempting to silence a pro-Georgian blogger by overwhelming the websites he used to communicate with sympathisers. A series of co-ordinated cyber attacks took Twitter offline for several hours, while other websites where the blogger held accounts, such as Facebook and the blogging service LiveJournal, also experienced interruptions to service.
Facebook said that a blogger by the name of Cyxymu appeared to be the target of the attacks, while security experts believe the attack originated from Russia. It’s almost a year since Russian troops invaded the South Ossetia region of Georgia. Hackers are believed to have used a distributed denial of service attack to crash websites used by Cyxymu. This technique uses a network of tens of thousands of compromised computers, known as a botnet, to flood a website’s servers with access requests, leaving ordinary traffic unable to get through, and causing the system to overload and crash. “It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting [Cyxymu] to keep his voice from being heard,” said Max Kelly, a senior security adviser at Facebook. “We’re actively investigating the source of the attacks and we hope to be able to find out the individuals involved in the back end and to take action against them if we can.” The hackers also attempted to bring down Cyxymu’s YouTube page, but Google said it was able to defend against the attack.
Biz Stone, Twitter’s co-founder, said he did not want to speculate about who was responsible for the attack which crippled his website. “Over the last few hours, Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively co-ordinated attack,” he said.
“This activity is about saturating a service with so many requests that it cannot respond to legitimate requests, thereby denying service to intended customers or users.” Graham Cluley, a senior security analyst with Sophos, said that Twitter needed to strengthen its infrastructure in order to fend off similar incidents in future.