Twitter Outages Caused By Terrorist Attacks

Twitter is well into it’s second day of crippling DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks and after learning more about the nature of the trouble, the team has been updating us via the Twitter blog. DDoS attacks on sites and web services are nothing new online and at any given point in time, at least some sites are under attack, but what’s alarming about the one hitting Twitter as I write this is that it “appear to have been geopolitical in motivation.”

Yesterday, August 6, CNET blogger Elinor Mills published an article titled “Twitter, Facebook attack targeted one user” where she wrote:

A Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and Google’s Blogger and YouTube was targeted in a denial-of-service attack that led to the sitewide outage at Twitter and problems at the other sites on Thursday, according to a Facebook executive.

The blogger, who uses the account name “Cyxymu,” (the name of a town in the Republic of Georgia) had accounts on all of the different sites that were attacked at the same time, Max Kelly, chief security officer at Facebook, told CNET News.

“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Kelly said. “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.”

The emphasized part above is key here.

Now let’s look at one of the definition’s of Terrorism from Wikipedia:

“Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.”

Breaking that definition down into it’s key components, we see how this attack that is affecting Twitter could be considered Terrorism:

1. “acts which are intended to create fear”

The Twitter user from Georgia is being stalked online and attacked in an effort to keep his voice from being heard. If I were him, and I had politically motivated activists attacking me, online or off in such an extreme manner, I’d be scared, terrified even.

2. “are perpetrated for an ideological goal”

The perpetrators of the attacks do not want the Georgian blogger’s message to be heard because they feel it may be a threat to their own ideology. Their goal with the attacks is to protect that ideology.

3. “deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants”

I don’t know about anyone’s safety or if anyone could or has been physically hurt by the outages of the social networking sites that were targeted, but the disregard of non-combatants is certainly there. The targeted user was using Twitter and other services to get his/her message out, so his nemisis attacks those services to silence one user.

Millions of global users and several large companies not involved in the conflict (non-combatants), other than their sites, services and networks being used or indirectly associated with the ‘attackee’, are certainly being disregarded. In a big way.

Two years ago, who would have dreamed Twitter would be the innocent victim of a terrorist attack?

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