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The Spy Who Flamed Me

August 7, 2009

Apparently yesterday’s massive attack on Twitter/Facebook/Blogger/Livejournal was aimed at a single blogger.  This amazing for  a couple reasons.  First, the attack was massive, it was a Distributed Denial of Service (DoS) attack that used a huge number of drone machines to send false emails and web hits to these services and overwhelmed them so that normal users couldn’t get through.  Its the equivalent of blanket carpet bombing several towns (Twitterville, Facebookberg…) just to get at some guy you heard hangs out in those towns sometimes.

Update: The attack is still ongoing, Twitter availability is still hit and miss.

From a technical point of view, this is astonishing because it means one of two things:

  • either the attacker hates this user so much that they don’t care about bringing down several huge services to do it, the consequences and inevitable search for them give them no fear
  • or, they somehow believed that attacking one user on twitter or facebook would just block the targeted account rather than the servers, the actual computers running twitter or facebook.  This is a mistake that would be impossible for a programmer or hacker to make.  While it may seem to the general user that their http://ImSoAmazing.blogspot.com site runs on its own machine, anyone capable of designing this attack would know that it is merely a virtual webserver run on a real machine (many real machines actually) that serve thousands and thousands of websites.  But what if the tools for the attack were made available to someone who didn’t know this?

Which brings us to the second amazing thing about this attack, the targeted user. It was a blogger with the handle Cyxymu whose most distinguishing characteristic is that he writes articles in favour of further freedom of Georgia from Russia….. that’s right, Russia.

Breath.

Was this an attack by a national government on some of the biggest webservices on the planet just to get at one rowdy blogger?  Was it more effective than they imagined?  Did a gov’t beuruacrat make a decision to simply use a tool given to him from the Cyber Warfare department apply this tool without fully understanding how it worked? Is the cold war back on, fought with flames online?

I don’t know do I? But this story is getting stranger by the day, keep an eye on it.

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