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Twitter snag tied to attack on blogger in former Soviet republic of Georgia

WASHINGTON — A politically motivated cyber attack against a single blogger in the former Soviet republic of Georgia is being blamed for a Thursday outage that left millions worldwide unable to access their personal Facebook and Twitter Web pages.

The attacks continued to affect Twitter service on Friday for some users of the popular microblogging site, after completely shutting down the site for hours the previous day. Facebook fared better; service returned to normal on Friday for its 200 million users.

Early Thursday morning, a flood of e-mail spam was blasted out on the Web, directing recipients to visit a single individual's personal Web page set up at various social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and YouTube, according to Bill Woodcock, research director of Packet Clearing House, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides support and training to companies that manage Internet traffic and development.

Woodcock said the spam also contained links to Web pages featuring the political musings of a 34-year-old blogger in Tbilisi, Georgia, who has been chronicling the tensions between his country and Russia.

McAfee, the computer security firm based in Santa Clara, Calif., said it began tracking a separate attack in which hijacked computers were directed to visit that blogger's pages repeatedly, in an apparent bid to prevent other visitors from viewing his content.

The twin attacks quickly overwhelmed Twitter and other social networking sites, said Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee's vice president of threat research.

"It looks like Twitter and Facebook were just caught up in the collateral damage from an attack on this one blogger's site," Alperovitch said.

Reached via instant message, the blogger, a man who would identify himself only by his first name — Georg — said his site was attacked on the one-year anniversary of the war between Russia and Georgia, a brief but costly battle that was accompanied by cyber attacks on Georgian government Web sites.

"I think (it is) because I have different opinion in Russian-Georgian war history (than) with Russian (government) propaganda," Georg wrote.

FAST FACTS

Targeting Twitter

Other recent attacks on Twitter:

April: The relatively harmless but powerful "StalkDaily" and "Mikeyy" worms flooded user pages with nuisance messages.

May: Scam artists blasted out "phishing" messages in a bid to trick users into giving away their usernames and passwords at counterfeit Twitter sites.

June: A computer worm spread, downloading a component that tried to frighten and intimidate victims into paying for bogus antivirus software.

July: Computer security researchers launched the "Month of Twitter Bugs" project, in which they published for each day of the month a new, previously undocumented security hole in the social network and the services that interact with it.

July: The "Koobface" worm, a rogue program that had previously spread on Facebook, MySpace and other Web 2.0 sites, began targeting Twitter.

July: A hacker broke into a number of personal accounts of Twitter employees, leaking company proprietary documents to members of the news media.

August: Twitter acknowledged that it was taking steps to block malicious links posted in tweets, using a security service offered by Google.

. FAST FACTS

Targeting Twitter

Other recent attacks on Twitter:

April: The relatively harmless but powerful "StalkDaily" and "Mikeyy" worms flooded user pages with nuisance messages.

May: Scam artists blasted out "phishing" messages in a bid to trick users into giving away their usernames and passwords at counterfeit Twitter sites.

June: A computer worm spreads, downloading a component that tries to frighten and intimidate victims into paying for bogus antivirus software.

July: Computer security researchers launch the "Month of Twitter Bugs" project, in which they publish for each day of the month a new, previously undocumented security hole in the social network and the services that interact with it.

July: The "Koobface" worm, a rogue program that previously spread on Facebook, MySpace and other Web 2.0 sites, begins targeting Twitter.

July: A hacker breaks into a number of personal accounts of Twitter employees, leaking company proprietary documents to members of the news media.

August: Twitter acknowledges that it is taking steps to block malicious links posted in tweets, using a security service offered by Google.

Twitter snag tied to attack on blogger in former Soviet republic of Georgia 08/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 11:43pm]

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