Twitter withstands second DDoS attack in a week

Unclear if latest attack is related to last week's assault that knocked Twitter offline for 2 hours

Less than a week after Twitter was shuttered by a highly publicized distributed denial-of-service attack, the microblogging site was hit by hackers again late yesterday.

This time, however, the Twitter stood up much better to the attack, only going down for about 30 minutes, about 90 minutes less than last week, the company said in a blog post. It added that Twitter personnel are analyzing traffic data to determine the specific nature of the latest attack.

It's so far unclear whether Tuesday's attack is related to last week's hack of the Twitter and Facebook social networks along with other sites. Security experts have said that the earlier trouble was likely politically motivated and targeted a single person, a pro-Georgian blogger identified only as "Cyxymu."

Today, security analysts said they don't yet have enough information to determine whether the two attacks are related.

"We don't know enough about the latest attack to know if it was still targeting the single pro-Georgian blogger, or whether it was another group proving its abilities against Twitter," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It wouldn't be eyebrow-raising normally to see a Web site suffer a series of denial-of-service attacks, as quite often they are initiated by cybercriminals in an attempt to procure money out of the victim via blackmail. In other words, they might prove their ability to knock out the site on a number of occasions."

But two take-downs - even if this last one was less dramatic - in one week is not good publicity for Twitter, which has grown rapidly in popularity and has gained a strong foothold among mainstream users along with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong and even two NASA astronauts. And given that companies like Zappos.com and JetBlue have taken to Twittering to boost their business, evidence that the site can't handle such attacks could blunt the interest of other potential corporate users.

Ken van Wyk, principal consultant at KRvW Associates LLC. and a columnist for Computerworld says beefing up Twitter's defenses isn't a job done quickly or easily.

"Is it worrisome? No, it's frustrating and unsurprising, but not really worrisome," he added. "Understand [that the work needed to be done] are infrastructure things that would take a long time to implement. We're talking bigger and faster network pipes, redundant geographic data centers, load balancing, and other massive undertakings. That's not going to happen in a week."

Van Wyk said start-ups too often save time and money by opting not to build their infrastructures to withstand foreseeable problems, including security threats.

"Somewhere along the way, it's likely they decided this type of DDoS attack wasn't a credible threat, or it was not high enough on their priority list to warrant the type of infrastructure investment I'm referring to," he added. "Not many companies need that kind of DDoS protection. It could have been a perfectly reasonable business decision at the time, but has now turned out to be regrettable."

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Sharon Gaudin

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