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Security analysts speculate about Twitter, Facebook DDoS attacks

Security analysts Thursday scrambled to find a motive behind the distributed denial-of-service attacks that brought down Twitter for several hours, and also hit Facebook, Google and LiveJournal. With little information to go on, researchers ended up speculating on who launched the attacks and why, although several agreed that Twitter’s infrastructure needed immediate strengthening.

“If you monitor the hacking forums, it’s clear they’re pissed at Twitter,” said Richard Stiennon, founder of IT-Harvest, a security research firm. “Twitter came out of nowhere. Hackers hated that. They’d been using forums and IRC to communicate, and all of a sudden, the rest of the world has their own thing in Twitter.” Roger Thompson, chief research officer at AVG Technologies, has a different idea. “I think it was a vigilante,” he said, “who wants to call attention to the danger of botnets.” Thompson’s theory posits that the vigilante — perhaps a security professional — assembled a small botnet, then aimed it at Twitter and Facebook, which was also attacked Thursday.

He based his idea on several similarities to the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that hammered U.S. government and South Korean commercial sites in early July. A different motivation surfaced late Thursday, when a Facebook executive told CNET News that his company believed the attacks were directed against one individual, a pro-Georgian blogger  who had accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal and Google Inc.’s Blogger and YouTube.

“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Max Kelly, Facebook’s chief security officer, said.

One thing security researchers seemed to agree on was that Twitter needed to bolster its Web infrastructure, or it will invite further attacks.

Chinese office suite goes online

A Chinese company that offers a rival suite to Microsoft Office is following industry trends by turning its software into a Web-based service. Evermore Software, based in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, has for years offered a software suite that looks very similar to Microsoft Office but costs less. Now the company sees its rivals moving online, and it is designing a Web version of its suite to compete with the likes of Google Docs and Microsoft’s upcoming Office Web apps.  “Everyone is searching for what form the online office should take, including Microsoft,” Wang Yuanbing, vice president of Evermore, said in an interview.

Evermore is little-known outside China. But over 20 million users have downloaded the personal version of Evermore Integrated Office, and state-owned enterprises and government offices around China use the business version, said said one com[pany executive.

Alibaba.com sets sites on U.S. market

Alibaba.com, China’s top e-commerce Web site, will step up efforts to expand abroad by launching its first large advertising campaign in the U.S. next week, the company said Friday.

The campaign, the latest sign of Alibaba’s ambitions overseas, is a core part of a $30 million marketing effort the company is launching abroad this year, an Alibaba spokeswoman said by e-mail. Ads meant to increase awareness and traffic to Alibaba.com will depict characters who used the Web site to propel their companies to success. The U.S. already accounts for the largest portion of Alibaba’s foreign users, who numbered 8.6 million at the end of March. But the Web site, a platform for businesses to buy and sell everything from raw materials to finished products, remains best-known in China.

Nvidia pays for manufacturing errors

Nvidia on Thursday disclosed a charge of US$119.1 million for its second fiscal quarter, ended July 26, to cover costs related to a faulty die and weak packaging material used in its graphics chips. It was Nvidia’s second charge related to the faulty chips. Nvidia recorded a $196 million charge during last year’s second fiscal quarter to cover warranty and product replacement costs associated with the issue.   

Nvidia last July reported that some graphics chips were overheating due to weak packaging material and the thermal design of some laptops. PC makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Apple used the faulty graphics chips in their products. Following the revelation, PC makers put programs in place that would either fix the BIOS or replace PCs that had the faulty chips. The costs of those programs were shared between Nvidia and the manufacturers.

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