Denial-of-service attacks hit popular social networking sites Twitter, LiveJournal and Facebook on Thursday, which resulted in Twitter being down for at least two hours. For its part, Facebook reported intermittent issues, yet was able to maintain service. Google also reported that an attack hit them at the same time, but was able to successfully defend against it without any service interruption. Twitter and Facebook say that no user data was compromised in the event. While no one has yet claimed responsibility, the origination of the attack is said to have come from Russia or Georgia.
While DOS attacks are common for many sites, this is the first time one was able to have such a noticeable effect on Twitter, said by many to be vulnerable to just such a thing. In many cases, hackers are not necessarily looking to exploit sites for illegal purposes, but others do. DOS attacks are part of the larger problem of Hacker Commerce, or H*Commerce, a multi-billion dollar industry where hackers compromise personal and business data for illegal gain, which in turn costs businesses time and money to have to defend against.
As noted in The Globe and Mail, Shelly Palmer, managing director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, shares the feeling held by many that any DOS should be treated more seriously. “People tend to want to take sites that are very public and go after them. In fact you’d be surprised how many sites for major companies are really attacked on a daily basis. This is a crime, it’s a real crime and it should be treated that way.”
Illegal or not, Twitter’s vulnerabilities were on display for the world to see as the popular microblogging site continues its upward growth in terms of the number of users, estimated to now be over 44 million. The site has been down before, but those past outages were usually server-related. This is the first time it’s been down to this extent due to malicious activity.