Twitter DDOS Attack Coincides With Iranian Election Ceremony

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in shortly before an online tool used by his opponents suffered a DDOS attack. Users have also reported issues with Facebook.

The online micro-blogging service Twitter has been hit by a distributed denial of service attack, the company has confirmed.

In a blog posting, Twitter confirmed that it had been hit by the DDOS attack but that it had managed to recover its site despite the fact the attack was still ongoing.

“We are defending against a denial-of-service attack, and will update status again shortly,” the blog posting stated. “Update: the site is back up, but we are continuing to defend against and recover from this attack.”

The attack appears to have hit shortly before 17:00 GMT and despite the claims that the site was back-up, still proved slow and unresponsive at 17:45 GMT.

Commenting on the attack, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security software specialist Sophos explained how a DDOS attack works. “A denial of service attack occurs when computers bombard a website with requests for information. Typically hackers can control thousands of innocent users’ computers centrally and command them to visit a site that they wish to flood with traffic – making it impossible for other internet users to get through,” he said. “It’s a bit like 15 fat men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time – nothing can move.”

Cluley also questioned why someone would want to take down Twitter. “The question on my mind is – why would someone want to attack Twitter? I can’t imagine it’s a commercial competitor of theirs, but it could be someone with a political or financial motivation (blackmail?), or a teenager in a back bedroom with access to an awfully large botnet.”

Although Twitter has not commented on the potential source of the attack, the micro-blogging site was an important tool for anti-government protesters in the recently contested Iranian elections. The company’s chief executive Evan Williams recently told the BBC that the company had been proud of its part in giving opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a voice and the decision to delay maintenance work during a critical period for the election. “We did it because it was the best thing to do to support the information flow there at an important time – and that is what we are about,” he told the BBC.

In what may or may not prove to be purely coincidence Ahmadinejad was sworn in on Wednesday for a second term as Iran’s president.

However, Facebook has also been reported to have been experiencing problems which could point to a potential wider attack or simply another coincidence.