Feeds

Researcher: Twitter attack targeted anti-Russian blogger

Joejobbing Cyxymu

Website security in corporate America

As Twitter struggled to return to normal Wednesday evening, a trickle of details suggested that the outage that left 30 million users unable to use the micro-blogging service for several hours - at least in part - may have been the result of a spam campaign that targeted a single user who vocally supports the Republic of Georgia.

According to Bill Woodcock, research director at the non-profit Packet Clearing House, the torrent of traffic that brought the site to its knees wasn't the result of a traditional DDoS, or distributed denial of service attack, but rather people who clicked on a link in spam messages that referenced a well-known blogger called Cyxymu.

As spam goes, the emails looked benign enough. One of them carried the subject "Visit my blog" and contained the words "thanks for looking at my blog" in the body. They contained respective links to Cyxymu's accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and YouTube, all of which also reported receiving abnormal amounts of traffic on Thursday.

"This was not like a botnet-style DDoS," Woodcock told The Register. "This was a joejob where people were just clicking on links in email and the people clicking on the links were not malefactors. They were just the sort of idiots that click on links in email without knowing what they are."

Joejobs are spam messages that are designed not to push Viagra but to induce someone to click on a link in the hopes of harming the site being linked to.

Twitter has so far said little on its blog and status page except that it spent much of the day fighting against a denial of service attack and that as late as 4:45 pm California time, latency problems were still causing some users to receive error pages. Company representatives didn't respond to emails seeking comment.

The theory was backed by this article from CNET News, which quoted Facebook's chief security officer saying the attacks targeting multiple websites all contained traffic linking to accounts held by Cyxymu.

"It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard," Facebook's Max Kelly told reporter Elinor Mills. "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."

Kelly made no reference to spam messages, so it remained unclear if the emails were the only cause of the mass requests to Cyxymu's profiles or if there were other causes as well.

Cyxymu has long been viewed as an antagonist by some Russian supporters, who take issue with the blogger's coverage of recent military conflicts in Georgia. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.