How Google Was Impacted By The Twitter-Facebook Denial of Service Attacks

A small group of users of Google's Blogger blogging service and Google Sites wiki experienced an hour-long outage. However, Google's core Web services, including its search engine, Gmail and Docs, were unaffected by the DoS attack that crippled Twitter and LiveJournal and tripped up Facebook.

The denial of service (DoS) attack that ravaged Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal August 6 cast a net so wide that it even dinged the Google Blogger blogging service and Google Sites wiki.

Citing Facebook Chief Security Officer Max Kelly, CNET reported that a Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and Google's Blogger and YouTube was targeted the attack.

When asked whether the DoS impacted Google sites, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK: "We are aware that a handful of non-Google sites were impacted by a DoS attack this morning, and are in contact with some affected companies to help investigate this attack. Google systems prevented substantive impact to our services."

A source familiar with the DoS impact told eWEEK Blogger and Google Sites were knocked out for a small percentage of users who use the custom URL redirect feature in Blogger and Sites to point users to their blog or wiki. This small group of users was unable to use their redirects for about an hour, the source said.

Indeed, while Twitter's roughly 45 millions users were shut out from tweeting their updates yesterday, and Facebook friends suffered slow site loading, users of Google's search, Gmail, Docs and other services didn't miss a beat.

Google's Gmail and Docs have suffered outages before, but not from any apparent malicious attack. In any case, it appears Google's core applications were not attacked in this instance. Even so, Google's infrastructure is more battle tested and may be better suited to fend off malicious attacks than the platforms from younger vendors such as Twitter and Facebook.

DoS attacks occur when computers bombard a Web site with requests for information, knocking the machines offline.

"DoS attacks are implemented by either forcing the targeted computer to reset, or consuming its resources so that it can no longer provide its intended service or obstructing the communication media between the intended users and the victim so that they can no longer communicate adequately," according to Wikipedia.

While some may liken this to a traffic jam on a fill-in-the-blank highway of their choice, reporters, security experts and pundits can fill a book with colorful analogies to describe a DoS.

Associated Press uses this analogy to describe a DoS: "To picture a "denial-of-service" attack, think about what would happen if you and all your friends called the same restaurant over and over and ordered things you didn't even really want. You'd jam the phone lines and overwhelm the kitchen to the point that it couldn't take any more new orders."

Graham Cluley, a senior consultant at IT security firm Sophos, uses a shorter analogy to characterize a DoS:

"It's a bit like 15 fat men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time - nothing can move," wrote Cluley in his blog Aug. 6.

Read more of the latest coverage on the DoS on TechMeme here.