Friday, August 07, 2009

Hackers attack on Twitter and Facebook

A hacker attack Thursday shut down the fast-growing messaging service Twitter for hours, while Facebook experienced intermittent access problems.

Twitter said it suffered a denial-of-service attack, in which hackers command scores of computers toward a single site at the same time, preventing legitimate traffic from getting through.

When people clicked on the links, they were taken to legitimate Web pages, but the traffic overwhelmed some servers and disrupted service, Woodcock said. For Twitter users, the outage meant no tweeting about lunch plans, the weather or the fact that Twitter is down.

The Twitter outage began at about 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) and lasted a few hours. Facebook, whose users encountered intermittent problems Thursday morning, was also the subject of a denial-of-service attack, though it was not known whether the same hackers were involved. Unlike Twitter, Facebook never became completely inaccessible. Facebook said no user information was at risk.

By early afternoon both Twitter and Facebook seemed to be functioning, giving cubicle-bound social media addicts a collective sigh of relief. Twitter warned, though, that as it recovers, "users will experience some longer load times and slowness."

Technology business analyst Shelly Palmer told AP Radio that denial-of-service attacks are a reality of the information age.

Earlier this week, Gawker Media, which owns the eponymous media commentary blog and other sites, was also attacked. In a blog post, Gawker said Tuesday it was attacked by "dastardly hackers," leading to server problems that caused network-wide outages Sunday and Monday. It was not immediately clear whether those attacks were related to Twitter's.

Thursday's was not the first - and likely not the last - outage for Twitter.

Besides planned maintenance outages, overcapacity can cripple Web sites, especially such fast-growing ones as Twitter and Facebook.

In fact, service outages on Twitter once were so common that management began posting a "Fail Whale" logo on the Web site to signal when the service was down. Denial-of-service attacks are typically carried out by "botnets" - armies of infected computers formed by spreading a computer virus that orders compromised machines to phone home for further instructions. Successful attacks on popular Web sites were common earlier this decade. Sites such as eBay, Amazon.com and CNN were overwhelmed by such attacks, sometimes for days, in 2000.

But Thursday's attack underscores the fact that no one is immune.

Last month, dozens of U.S. and South Korean sites, including those of the White House and South Korea's presidential Blue House, were targeted in denial-of-service attacks.

Pick from The Jakarta Post

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