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Twitter Attack Looks Politically Motivated

The denial of service attacks that hit Twitter, Blogger, Facebook and LiveJournal on Thursday appear to be an effort to silence a pro-Georgia blogger.

Security researchers believe that the denial of service attack that knocked Twitter offline for over two hours on Thursday and slowed accesses to Blogger, Facebook and LiveJournal was politically motivated.

"Yesterday's attack appears to be directed at an individual who has a presence on a number of sites, rather than the sites themselves," said a Facebook spokesperson in an e-mail. "Specifically, the person is an activist blogger and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it impacted service for other users."

On August 7, 2008, a year ago today, Georgian troops moved into the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. Russian troops then did likewise, resulting in several days of heavy fighting. Despite a ceasefire signed by Russia nine days later, tensions in the region remain high.

The first anniversary of the conflict appears to be what led unknown parties to target a Georgian blogger known as "Cyxymu," which is also the name of a Georgian town.

Cyxymu has accounts on all four services, as well as on YouTube. Max Kelly, chief security officer at Facebook, said that the attacks appeared to be an attempt to silence this individual.

Cyxymu's Twitter page claims that the attack was the work of Russian hackers.

During the fighting between Georgia and Russia last year, Georgian Web sites suffered a similar cyber assault.

Sophos, a security firm based in the U.K., reports a surge of spam from Cyxymu's Gmail account.

A message on Cyxymu's LiveJournal page says that spam appearing to come from his Gmail address represents an attempt to get him in trouble for spamming. "I beg your pardon for the spam you are getting in your mailboxes," the post says. "It's not me who [is] sending it but spammers who want me to be sued for mass mailing."

An attack of this sort is called a "Joe Job."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, finds this scenario plausible. "I think it is possible that the spam campaign was either run alongside the denial-of-service from compromised computers around the world, or that someone who wasn't responsible for the Joe Job decided to wreak revenge on whoever they believed to have spammed them (and they might have imagined it was Cyxymu) by launching a DDoS from their botnet," he said in a blog post.

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