Tens of millions of Twitter and Facebook users might have been the unfortunate collateral damage of a virtual assault launched by rogue cybercriminals from Russia against a lone university professor.
The New York Times reports that a 34-year old university professor that teaches economics at Sukhumi State University in Tbilisi was the target of "nationalistic hackers" who wanted to silence him online rather than in real life.
The blogger, who writes under the name Cyxymu and whose real first name is Giorgi, told NYTimes during a phone interview that he noticed, like millions, that all the platforms he uses to publish his thoughts about the altercations one year ago between Russia and Georgia, a former Soviet Republic were not available.
An hour-by-hour analysis of what went on on Thursday and Friday revealed that the hackers sent millions of spam emails, modifying the sender's identity to make as if Cyxymu sent it and included links to Giorgi's accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Pages, Livejournal and others.
Then, curiously, a huge distributed denial of service attack was launched against websites where Giorgi' writes. Twitter and LiveJournal disappeared from the web. In the case of Twitter, which Alexa ranks amongst the top 20 websites globally, the site did not even show its usual "Fail Whale " logo.
And the failure of Twitter to sustain the onslaught of fake traffic - for several hours - coming from thousands of botnet computers meant that dozens of companies which relied on Twitter had to shut down as well. Cotweet for example says that its users "may continue to experience intermittent issues & slowness as Twitter works to improve service".
Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, did say in the last post on Twitter's blog that the company was working to "restore access to apps built on the Twitter platform that were affected by defensive measures".