(Thanks to Lilian for inspiring the title). August 5 2009 could very well come to be known as the Day of the Zombie. Earlier in the day, the press reported that Twitter had been knocked offline by a large distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). Besides the obvious comments about some people missing the capability of informing the world about their current whereabouts (note: this is of course, a self-deprecating attempt at a joke, no offence intended to the Twitterverse), this seemed like quite a serious attack to a major online service.
Things started escalating when Facebook announced that it had been the subject of another DDoS attack as well, although the service had not been disrupted as badly as Twitter. Google and LiveJournal also reported that they had been hit, although Google’s infrastructure was able to survive the attack unscathed, and with little effect to its services.
What is going on? At the moment there is no indication whatsoever as to who may be behind the attacks. One could speculate that someone is trying to knock down social media for whatever reason, but the fact that all of these sites were hit the same day may be an indication of a co-ordinated operation. My initial suspicion is that this is simply a malicious act with no underlying agenda, probably some bored hackers with too much time on their hands. Some security experts agree, these types of attacks happen every day, but they only make the news when some important service is affected.
One thing is clear, the number of zombie computers out there is still a problem. One could argue that this incident has illustrated a “zombie divide” when it comes to Internet security. Larger companies like Facebook and Google are well prepared for such attacks, but smaller firms like Twitter and LJ are not, and when a major incident takes place, they are affected the most. Nuisance or threat? DDoS may be both, depending on the size of your wallet.
Update: CNet is reporting that the attack seems to have targeted a single Russian Georgian user.