Feeds

Twitter meltdown raises questions about site stability

Micro-blogging site knocked over by stiff burst of wind

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The paralysing effect of an internet attack against Twitter has raised questions about the site's apparent fragility.

Attacks against accounts maintained by pro-Georgian blogger Cyxymu at a number of social networking sites including Facebook, Blogger and LiveJournal as well as Twitter, and apparently aimed at silencing him, brought the micro-blogging site to its knees.

The attack caused intermittent difficulties accessing Facebook (see notice here) and other sites on Thursday, but it was over at Twitter where it really hit home, flooring the micro-blogging service for almost two hours and reducing service levels well into Friday.

Bill Woodcock, research director at Packet Clearing House, advanced the theory on Thursday that the assault wasn't the result of a traditional distributed denial of service, but the effects of users clicking a link contained in spam messages ostensibly promoting Cyxymu's web presence.

The messages were designed to discredit Cyxymu by associating him with a spam run. Other security researchers, such as Patrik Runald at F-Secure (here) and Graham Cluley at Sophos, are sceptical about this Joe Job-style theory for the attack.

The vast majority of recipients wouldn't have bothered clicking on such a link, but it is possible that the spam campaign was either run alongside a denial-of-service attack from a network of compromised PCs or inspired a Russian patriot with access to a botnet to attack Cyxymu's web presence and by extension the social networking sites he uses. The timing of the attack coincides with the first anniversary of the ground war between Russia and Georgia.

However the attack was caused, and whether or not there's any significance in its timing, there's little doubt that it succeeded in throttling Twitter. An analysis by Arbor Networks, experts in DDoS attack mitigation, explains that Twitter-related traffic slowed to a trickle.

We generally don’t see a lot of data (i.e. it takes thousands of tweets to match the bandwidth of a single video), but 55 ISPs in the Internet Observatory were exchanging roughly 200 Mbps with Twitter before the DDoS. Then traffic dropped to a low of 60 Mbps around 10:40am and began climbing after that. As of 1pm EDT, Twitter traffic was still down by 50% at 150 Mbps (normally we see close to 300 Mbps for this time of day).

Twitter’s two NTT hosted address blocks were moved in response to the attack, Arbor adds. Twitter's reliance on just one service provider, and apparent lack of back up and redundancy, much less a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, goes a long way towards explaining why it was hit so badly.

Twitter's website was back up and running, albeit with minor latency issues, by Friday. The latest status update from Twitter states that "site latency has continued to improve, however some web requests continue to fail". ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.