Feeds

Researcher: Twitter attack targeted anti-Russian blogger

Joejobbing Cyxymu

Reducing security risks from open source software

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. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot
Dirty QWERTY a perfect P@ssword1 for garbage websites
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
L33t haxxors compete to p0wn popular home routers
EFF-endorsed SOHOpelessly Broken challenge will air routers' dirty zero day laundry
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.