Picture 3 Was yesterdays Social Media Apocalypse an attack on one man?Yesterday’s attack on Twitter, Facebook and Livejournal remains shrouded in mystery but the likely cause is that it was all an attack on one man.

That’s right, the attacks that took Twitter offline for over two hours, brought down Livejournal briefly and caused intermittent problems at Facebook may well have been a co-ordinated attack on one political blogger in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

A report on CNET claims a blogger going by the name of ‘Cyxymu’ was under attack, presumably due to political beliefs which he discusses via his Livejournal blog, Facebook account and Twitter ID. The attacks reportedly also targeted the Georgian’s Youtube and Blogger accounts but as these two services are run by the mighty Google with its vast resources, they were largely unaffected.

It appears that the attack was a little different from the usual type of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that relies on a ‘Botnet’ of compromised computers overloading a site with requests. The Register suggests that it was actually a ‘Joejob’ attack, based on a mass of spam emails.

“As spam goes, the emails looked benign enough. One of them carried the subject “Visit my blog” and contained the words “thanks for looking at my blog” in the body. They contained respective links to Cyxymu’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and YouTube, all of which also reported receiving abnormal amounts of traffic on Thursday.

“This was a joejob where people were just clicking on links in email and the people clicking on the links were not malefactors. They were just the sort of idiots that click on links in email without knowing what they are.”

Joejobs are spam messages that are designed not to push Viagra but to induce someone to click on a link in the hopes of harming the site being linked to.”

This is frightening for two reasons:

  1. Web services we rely on are so fragile that spam emails can bring them down for hours. As Twitter co-founder Biz Stone says, “…today’s massive, globally distributed attack was a reminder that there’s still lots of work ahead”.
  2. People actually click on spam emails! Seriously, people really think that the poorly spelt, unsolicited emails they receive are worth reading! How many fake bottle of Cialis must these guys be selling?

At least Twitter users have got over their woes in the only way they know how – a hashtag. #whentwitterwasdown is currently one of the top trending topics on the microblogging service.