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Vulnerabilities / Threats

6/21/2012
06:29 PM
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Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?

Twitter blames a cascading bug, but hacking group UGNazi claims responsibility.

Twitter was unavailable for about two hours Thursday due to a bug or to a denial of service attack.

Twitter claims the problem was equipment-related. "Today's outage is due to a cascaded bug in one of our infrastructure components," a company spokesman said in an email, denying the involvement of hackers.

The hacking group UGNazi, however, claimed via Twitter to have been responsible for taking down Twitter.

In a separate email sent to InformationWeek, a person claiming to be Cosmo, one of the individuals associated with UGNazi, reiterated that claim. "Hello, I am Cosmo from UGNazi and I would like to inform you we just took twitter.com down with a DDoS Attack. It has been down for 20 minutes now," the email said.

[ Read Social Game Maker Stops HTML5 Project. ]

The person claiming to be Cosmo disputed Twitter's denial in a follow-up email. "Twitter moved to multiple servers today to try and migrate [sic] the attack," the sender said. "It was not a bug."

Thursday afternoon, Twitter posted more information about the outage.

"At approximately 9:00am PDT, we discovered that Twitter was inaccessible for all Web users, and mobile clients were not showing new Tweets," Mazen Rawashdeh, Twitter's VP of engineering, said in a blog post. "We immediately began to investigate the issue and found that there was a cascading bug in one of our infrastructure components. This wasn't due to a hack or our new office or Euro 2012 or GIF avatars, as some have speculated today."

Yet asked directly whether UGNazi's claims were inaccurate, a Twitter spokeswoman replied, "We don't have a comment on that."

So could those speaking for UGNazi be telling the truth? Possibly. A DDoS attack, after all, isn't technically a hack. No vulnerabilities or exploits affecting Twitter's systems are involved in sending a flood of data to overwhelm Twitter's servers. Pressed for further clarification, Twitter did not immediately respond.

Cosmo, identified as "Hannah Sweet" on the UGNazi website, was arrested by the FBI in May. The FBI did not immediately respond to a query submitted to its national press office about whether Cosmo could have been involved in the supposed attack on Twitter.

The person claiming to be Cosmo confirmed being arrested by the FBI but, in an email, declined to discuss the matter.

Cosmo's arrest was reportedly related to UGNazi's alleged involvement in the breach of billing company WHMCS in May. UGNazi also claimed responsibility for hacking a Web service called CloudFlare earlier this month in order to conduct an attack on 4Chan.

Though Twitter was accessible Thursday evening, the company's status blog indicated ongoing issues five hours after the initial problem was reported. Twitter has reported far fewer site reliability issues in 2012 than in previous years.

According to Rawashdeh, Twitter has enjoyed its highest reliability to date over the past six months.

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PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
6/22/2012 | 2:15:38 PM
re: Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?
To have Twitter go down for any amount of time is crucial for the real time social media site to function as intended. For Twitter to accept and acknowledge that a DDos attack was the reason, could have permanent scaring on the companyGs reputation. I find it funny that they did not comment on CosmoGs claim that he tweeted he was responsible! You have to admit that it is pretty cocky to admit you are the one responsible for TwitterGs system being down on their website! I think that after the breach with LinkedIn recently, has made Twitter is worried about how their security measures would be under close scrutiny. The truth will come out in the end, and the reason will surface soon enough.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Ks2 Problema
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Ks2 Problema,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 2:53:17 PM
re: Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?
My gosh, I'm surprised the media didn't just go dark for two hours.

Seems like the ONLY people -- and I'm a web developer among a very fashion-forward, tech-oriented set -- I know who use Twitter -- are the chattering class, who are apparently under the profound delusion that the rest of the world hang on their every 140 character utterance.

It's amusing, but really rather pathetic.
ruggedman
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ruggedman,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 3:24:12 PM
re: Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?
"Hardware Fail"? Sounds like a journalistic FAILURE to me Thomas Claburn. Seriously people...
shuuna
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shuuna,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 4:30:35 PM
re: Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?
If DDoS is GǣhackingGǣ that makes the kid in my building blocking my door with his bicycle guilty of breaking and entering.
Bprince
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Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2012 | 12:03:03 PM
re: Twitter Crash: Hack Or Hardware Fail?
I am reluctant to believe in a massive conspiracy to cover up a DDoS attack by blaming it on a bug in their infrastructure. For one, Twitter has been hit with DDoS before, like a lot of sites, and I would argue that a bug causing downtime from a PR standpoint is probably worse. What I fail to understand is why they didn't respond to a direct question on it from the reporter, because by not doing so they are raising more questions. Mitigating DDoS is important for sites like Twitter, but I think the average person has come to understand that from time to time things like this can happen, so I doubt admitting it would have caused any serious damage to their rep.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
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