Pro-Georgian blogger was the target of Internet attacks

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The cyber assaults of early August 2009 that temporarily derailed the websites Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal were, according to Internet security company F-Secure, aimed at a pro-Georgian blogger.

The massive distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks were intended, so it would appear, to silence a blogger known as "Cyxymu" hammered Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and even YouTube, F-Secure researcher Mikko Hyponnen said in a message at the firm's website.

"Launching DDoS attacks against services like Facebook is the equivalent of bombing a TV station because you don't like one of the newscasters," Hyponnen wrote.

"The amount of collateral damage is huge. Millions of users of Twitter, LiveJournal, and Facebook have been experiencing problems because of this attack."

Facebook reported on Friday that it had isolated the trouble and service for its more than 250 million users had returned to normal.

I must say that I am a user of Twitter and of Facebook and had not even noticed that there has been a problem.

Cyxymu pages at Facebook and LiveJournal were targeted in the cyber assault, according to the Palo Alto, California-based social-networking hotspot.

Facebook said in a release that the attack appeared to have been directed at an individual who has a presence on a number of sites, rather than at the sites themselves.

"Specifically, the person is an activist blogger and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it impacted service for other users."

Internet security specialists say the source of the attacks may never be determined with certainty if no one claims responsibility.

"Whoever is behind this attack, they had significant bandwidth available," Hyponnen said.

"Our best guess is that these attacks were done by nationalistic Russian hackers who wanted to silence a visible online opponent."

In "tweets" at popular micro-blogging service Twitter, Cyxymu blames Russian authorities out to stifle his online commentary.

The attacks may have had the opposite effect, with the number of people signed on to follow Cyxymu tweets more than quadrupling to 1,437 in the wake of the cyber assaults.

"My twitter is online!" a tweet proclaimed on Friday at the Twitter page of Cyxymu, who listed his location as Tbilisi. "Thank you all for support after ciber (sic) attack from Russia!"

Twitter and Facebook have teamed with US Internet powerhouse Google to investigate the attacks.

Google, who owns the online video-sharing website YouTube and also a Blogger service that were reportedly hit by cyber attacks.

Mountain View, California-based Google deflected the assaults and "prevented substantive impact to our services," a company spokesman said.

Classic DDoS attacks involve legions of zombie computers, machines infected with viruses, which are commanded to simultaneously visit a website.

Such a massive onslaught of demand can overwhelm website computer servers, slowing service or knocking it offline.

An everyday chatting tool for many, Twitter has also become a weapon for dissidents to circumvent censorship in places where freedom of speech is suppressed.

"The open exchange of information can have a positive impact globally and our job is to keep Twitter services running reliably to the best of our ability," Stone said.

The problem that we have been seeing here , though I must say it bypassed me entirely and |I did not happen to notice anything of it, shows how vulnerable computer systems, large and small, are to cyber attacks of any kind and how easy it could be to incapacitate not just, say, Twitter or Facebook or Blogger, but the national and international infrastructure of communication.

It must be said that many users are to blame as their computers are being turned into zombies in botnets due to their non-existent computer security procedures. Too many users have no idea as to the need to keep anti-virus and other anti-malware software updated on an at least once-daily basis though more often is better still.

Many users are also unaware of the fact that for personal use some of the best anti-virus and anti-malware software can be gotten entirely free for the asking from a variety of official sources on the Net, such as the AVG anti-virus, for instance.

In addition to that, in order to avoid nasty sited when following links, say, in Twitter, Finian also has made available free a browser tool that will verify links as safe, questionable or as dangerous and this tool certainly if very recommended.

While this will never stop such cyber attacks every additional secured PC around the world helps to cut down on the zombies.

© 2009