Thursday, August 6, 2009

Twitter Troubles: Denial-of-Service Attack

"Statement from Twitter on denial of service attack"
SciTechBlog, CNN (August 6, 2009)

"Here's a more detailed update on the Twitter outage. Thanks for those of you who are commenting on the situation. Please keep it up.

"Sent to by Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder:

"'There’s no indication that this attack is related to any previous activities. We are currently the target of a denial of service attack. Attacks such as this are malicious efforts orchestrated to disrupt and make unavailable services such as online banks, credit card payment gateways, and in this case, Twitter for intended customers or users. We are defending against this attack now and will continue to update our status blog as we defend and later investigate.'..."

And, the first comments (Comments were closed a bit later):

"Jim / August 6th, 2009 11:23 am ET
"Twitter is so last year."

"Shannon / August 6th, 2009 11:25 am ET
"Twitter is pretty lame if it can't defend against a DDOS attack. My morning is ruined."

"Cheryl in MI / August 6th, 2009 11:32 am ET
"Facebook has been acting very strangely all day, too. Has anybody determined if it is under similar attack?"

"M Carlson / August 6th, 2009 11:34 am ET
"Wasn't Twitter just banned from Armed Forces use? Wasn't the case for banning Twitter because it was being used to spread malicious lies to our servicepeople? Oops, Twitter all gone."

And so on.

M Carlson may have read this article, also on CNN:

"Marines ban Twitter, Facebook, other sites"
Wired, via CNN (August 4, 2009)

"The U.S. Marine Corps has banned Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from its networks, effective immediately.

" 'These internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries," reads a Marine Corps order, issued Monday.

" 'The very nature of SNS [social network sites] creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts OPSEC [operational security], COMSEC [communications security], [and] personnel... at an elevated risk of compromise.'..."

Human nature being what it is, I'm pretty sure that there are people who feel, deeply and ardently, that They are behind the Twitter attack. Back when I was young, many would have been positive that They were 'the Commies.' These day's, there's a sort of smorgasbord: military-industrial complex, Iran, Muslims in general, Russia, China. There's more to the list, including shape-shifting space-alien lizard people.

I'm not quite so certain. I wasn't able to log onto Twitter until noon today, so I know that something was amiss. I'm inclined to believe that there was a directed denial of service attack. As to who is responsible? I simply don't know.

Now, about the big, bad military doing something naughty: The Marines did ban social networking sites. Not, apparently, because they were afraid of U. S. Marines being told The Truth1 - but because software used by networking sites like Twitter could, in principle, be used to hack into computers at the Marines' end. That wouldn't be good, at least from my perspective.

I haven't nailed this down, but I've heard that other branches of the American military are, in light of the Marine Corps decision, reviewing their own policies.

This is still new technology, and a new social arena: Let's not be too surprised when there are a few unpleasant surprises.

I've found it helpful to compare the social and legal situation on the Internet to the so-called 'wild west' of America's history. There was a period where people were building towns, doing business that ranged from the legitimate to the dubious, to the outright illegal. And there were troublemakers and criminals - who were gleefully aware that the nearest legal authority might be more than a day's ride away.

Then, as now, there was sometimes trouble, like when someone decided to cut the telegraph line, or pull up the rails.

But it was a period of invention - socially and technologically - and, I think, an exciting one. Like today.

1The American military isn't quite what some subcultures believe it to be: "All Those Poor, Uneducated, Minorities Being Drafted in America!" Another War-on-Terror Blog (January 4, 2009).

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