yesterday's attacks against Twitter, Facebook, and LiveJournal were meant to target only one user - a pro-Georgian blogger knows as Cyxymu. What isn't clear yet, however, is who was actually behind these attacks. Assuming these attacks were politically motivated and really only meant to silence or intimidate Cyxymu, then they obviously failed spectacularly.Right now, it clearly looks like
Guardian Interview with Cyxymu
After all, did you know who Cyxymu was when you woke up yesterday? Speaking to the Guardian earlier today, Cyxymu argued that the Russian government was directly responsible for these attacks against him, though while this makes for a good headline, chances are that the reality is far more prosaic.
Cyxymu on the Net: A Digital Refugee
These attacks, which affected some of the Internet's most popular sites, seem oddly out of proportion. On Twitter, Cyxymu had only about 600 friends earlier today - though that number is now up over 800 and growing as his name becomes more widely known. His main LiveJournal account only got between 1000 and 1500 unique visitors per day over the last few months (though Cyxymu moved from service to service, so it's hard to pinpoint exact numbers).
Evgeny Morozov currently offers the best discussion of who Cyxymu is and why he might have been the target of this attack. You can find his post on the Foreign Policy magazine's Net Effect blog (it's a long read, but worth it). Morozov describes Cyxymu as the first "digital refugee," who had already faced DDOS attacks on his LiveJournal and Wordpress.com blog last year. Morozov discounts the idea that Cyxymu will mostly profit from these attacks thanks to the Streisand effect and that his message will now be heard by far more people than before the attacks. We are not quite sure about that, however, especially given that Cyxymu has started to give media interviews now.
Was the Kremlin Behind these Attacks?
Given that Cyxymu already faced similar attacks in the past, it only makes sense to assume that these new attacks were also meant to silence or intimidate him (though clearly this never worked before). We do wonder, however, if this was really an attack launched by the Russian government. While the results of the attack were far-reaching, DDOS attacks are sadly nothing unusual on the net - and sometimes they are even used as a way to extort money from online businesses. It doesn't take a government to start a DDOS attack, and lots of spammers and hackers probably have the ability to launch an attack of this scale.
In his Guardian interview, Cyxymu says that the attack may have been "carried out by ordinary hackers but I'm certain the order came from the Russian government." Indeed, this is a possibility and it's still too early to really know. For the time being, though, we are not fully convinced yet that a government organization was really behind this attack.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.