Post Classifieds

Spammers crash social sites

By Danielle Jurski
On August 28, 2009

This summer, millions were unable to Tweet what they were having for breakfast, or update their Facebook profile picture of their vacation in Hawaii. These popular social networking sites were targeted by "botnets" - computers infected by worms or Trojans, which are then taken over by hackers and brought into networks to send spam and viruses. "Everyone's on [Twit­ter and Facebook], so there are a lot of spam­mers on them, Dorvonda Payne, junior Communi­cation major, said. "They make fake accounts and screen names and just attack users. But now [those companies] are getting smarter and learning how to block them." Not only do botnets send viruses to users, but they can be used to send out spam, steal pass­words and overwhelm Web sites. In turn, this meant no tweets about lunch plans, vacation spots or anything else. ‘It can get frustrating when you're finally back online and it's lagging because everyone else is finally back online, too," Lindsey Fenton, sopho­more biology major, said. "A lot of people get re­ally freaked out and re­ally realize how often they actually use the sites when something like this happens." These attacks hap­pened to kick the es­timated 250 million Facebook users and 45 million Tweeters offline for hours, even days while glitches were fixed. Twitter, the younger of the two, was hit harder which left users receiv­ing denial-of-service messages, according to www.renovomedia.com. "When Twitter got hacked, it was acting strange and you couldn't tell if it was over capac­ity, like it sometimes is," Payne said. "It was down for a few days after that." When Twitter becomes over capacitated, a ‘fail whale' logo is shown on the Web site to signal ser­vice is down. But there was no familiar whale telling users to try again. These spammers may be causing stress to most users, and they aren't go­ing unnoticed. "I think it's a clever way to advertise," Fen­ton said. "Obviously, I'd be angry if it happened to me, but if hackers are go­ing to take the time to get into the site, they're get­ting their point across." An attack like the ones that Twitter saw this summer showed the lack of protection the site has. "It just goes to show you, no matter how many users, celebrities, or politicians use a site, that doesn't make it any better," Fenton said. "Ev­eryone is vulnerable in cyber space." But in the end, users can blame the spammers for lack of Tweets. "You may not use the Twitter.com service for any illegal or unauthor­ized purpose," Twiter Terms of Service states. "You must not modify, adapt or hack Twitter.com."

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