Twitter Crippled by Denial-of-Service Attack

The denial-of-service attack that left Twitter inaccessible for several hours on Thursday morning is just the latest in a string of problems for the rising star of social media. As the service grows and matures, it's run into its share of problems, and discontent is easy to find. But today's DDoS attack goes far beyond fake backlash.

Twitter outages were first reported on Thursday morning, and Twitter confirmed that it had been hit by a denial-of-service attack in a post on its company blog. "We are defending against this attack now and will continue to update our status blog as we continue to defend and later investigate," the company said.

In a status report about an hour following its acknowledgement of the attack, Twitter reported that the site was back up, but users still were having trouble reaching it. Twitter users have reported slowness and intermittent outages.

As Twitter tries to restore uninterrupted service, the attack is a reminder of how far external forces will go to cast the company and its service in a negative light.

It was less than a month ago that French hacker stole massive amounts of sensitive information on Twitter, including exhaustive business notes and personal information on employees. This wasn't a benign "I did it to prove there's a vulnerability" scenario; the hacker leaked the documents to TechCrunch, which in turn posted much of the site's business-related documents.

The attack wasn't the first on Twitter. In April, a cyberattacker by the same alias, Hacker Croll, guessed an employee's Yahoo Mail password and then gained access to the accounts of actor Ashton Kutcher and singer Britney Spears. A similar attack happened in January.

I bring up these points not to illustrate security issues -- though it's clear that Twitter has them -- but to show how Twitter has become a target, as proven again by today's attack. That's what happens when you're a rapidly-growing service, loved by the technology world, but loathed by people who don't care or don't understand it.

The backlash is evident elsewhere, too. This week, ESPN cracked down on employee tweeting, effectively ruining for its staff what makes the service so enjoyable in the first place. Earlier, a tool was released that allows people to make money by Tweeting advertisements. Even if Sponsored Tweets doesn't directly involve the Twitter company itself, it gives the sense that Twitter is a place for selling out.

There are little things, too, such as worm attacks on several occasions, spammers increasing in numbers and the general sluggishness that occasionally prevents the site from loading as it should.

If Twitter can't maintain a hospitable environment for its users, it'll never achieve its goal of becoming the Web's pulse. For some individuals, that'd be just fine.

Elizabeth Montablano of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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