Facebook and Twitter were the subject of a Russian Denial of Service attack a couple of weeks back, aimed a silencing a Georgian blogger, in the latest example of the on-going Georgian-Russian war in cyberspace. Twitter was knocked offline by the attack. The mode of the attack is in dispute, it may have been a simple spam-and-link style attack, whereby users click on links in spam emails. However much more popular style of DDoS uses a distributed network of automated computers – or bots – to simultaneously hit the Twitter site, overloading its servers, and knocking it offline.
Now it has emerged that not only was Twitter the subject of a botnet attack, but a Twitter account has been used to control an army of infected machines. The account – now shutdown – sent out tweets of strings of numbers, which were then replicated via RSS feeds, which then communicated the necessary commands to the machines to carry out the evil bidding of the bot master.
In the past messaging software such as ICQ, as well as plain old Trojan horses have been used to control botnets. However any technology that allows people to talk, also necessarily allows computer to communicate – and controlling botnets appears to be yet one more innovation for web 2.0 technologies.