WordPress Hit By Multigigabit DDoS Attack

Blog hosting service back online, working with 'upstream providers' to mitigate further attack

The WordPress blog hosting service came back online this afternoon after several hours of pummeling by a relentless distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that either slowed or knocked offline its 18 million blogs.

This was the largest DDoS attack ever against WordPress, reaching the capacity of multigigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second, according to WordPress' Twitter update. The attack took its toll on all three of the site's data centers, which are based in Chicago, San Antonio, and Dallas, and

WordPress told Sophos, which uses the platform for its Naked Security blog, that it's getting outside help in thwarting the attack. "The DDoS is too large for us to mitigate directly, so we've been collaborating with our upstream providers and relying on their intervention. This is a precision interventional, so potentially the attack could be shifted around it," according to WordPress.

"This is the largest and most sustained attack we've seen in our six-year history. We suspect it may have been politically motivated against one of our non-English blogs, but we're still investigating and have no definitive evidence yet," WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg told CNET.

Nicholas Percoco, vice president at Trustwave and head of the company's SpiderLabs ethical hacking team, says that if it were a politically motivated attack, then it could have been via a rented botnet. "And if they were pointing toward a [specific] blog on WordPress, it would take down all of the blogs" on the site, Percoco says. "It's cloud-based, so everyone shares the same resources. If WordPress is watching the [DDoS] trafic, they can see immediately who it's going toward."

While WordPress is mainly known for its consumer blogging service, it also offers a premium VIP service for corporate customers, such as Sophos, that host their blogs via the service.

WordPress was not available for comment at the time of this posting.

Just how the company is handling the mitigation of the attack remains unclear, but Trustwave's Percoco says there are several ways to fight a DDoS. "There are tricks you can do," he says. "If you know the specific targeted blog, you can reroute that traffic someplace else to a dark space that's not impacting the environment," for instance, or shift IPs.

"There are things you can do -- but they aren't permanent solutions," Percoco says. There's only so long that you can "dance around and dodge bullets" in this fashion, he notes.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Jackson Higgins, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, Virginia Business magazine, and other major media properties. Jackson Higgins was recently selected as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity Journalists in the US, and named as one of Folio's 2019 Top Women in Media. She began her career as a sports writer in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and earned her BA at William & Mary. Follow her on Twitter @kjhiggins.

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