This week, hackers in Russia and Georgia blocked up Twitter and Facebook with a denial of service attack in order to prevent a Georgian Professor’s blog, detailing the history of the recent border skirmish between the two aforementioned countries. (Read the article here.)
Now that, my friends, is social networking at work! Rather than sending out tweets or creating Facebook Pages to get others to back a cause, these hackers found a way to use social sites (and yes, e-mail, the traditional ammunition of a DOS,) to create a forced boycott. If the pages won’t load, no one can read them.
This isn’t a defence of what they did, but they certainly outlined the power at the hands of people with drive and technical ability. Denial of service attacks were a big problem 10 years ago, but most IT professionals haven’t worried about them in some time. Today, a server is usually able to block out overloads of messages and traffic to stop just this sort of thing.
The hackers at work this week obviously found a way around it. Between this and other hacks of social sites this year, we should all get used to the idea that these things are not secure. Giving away passwords, your physical address, phone number – anything that should be considered private – could be open game for a hacker. Since we’ve all become so easy-going with giving sites we’d never heard of our Twitter passwords, or access to our Facebook accounts, there aren’t too many firewalls preventing strangers from finding out more about ourselves than we’d want. Despite my great love of sites like Brightkite, I’m a little surprised we haven’t heard more stories of burglaries happening because a Brightkiter posts about being out of town.
While having our Twitter access cut off for a day is a minor inconvenience, I hope people come away from it with a respect for how insecure sites like this actually are, and that we all need to be careful when sharing our information on them.
Maybe that’s how Twitter will finally get people to pay for it’s service? “If you want a truely secure environment, that will be $20 per month, please.”