Some folks found out today as both Twitter and Facebook were subject to DDoS attacks.
Though both social networks are functioning again, millions were without service earlier this morning. At this time, no one has determined whether both shutdowns were caused by the same hacker, but investigations are continuing.
What's all the fuss about?
According to Mashable, the Social Media Guide, the Distributed Denial of Service "(DDoS) attacks often involve sending a flood of external communication requests to the site that at first glance may appear just like legitimate traffic. The intent is to overwhelm the service’s resources to such a degree that it can’t respond to real requests for real users..."
The Internet has been subject to such attacks before, and even has come to a standstill without intentional attack, as in the crash of several major information hubs as people searched all at once for news on the death of Michael Jackson. There are a finite number of connections and when they are all full, the system backs up, just like a telephone switchboard.
The significance of this attack depends on who's put out. For all those who couldn't tweet their lunch plans, they likely had other methods of contact. Or as one of the CNN commenters said, "Oh, my Lord! People will actually have to pick up the PHONE and call each other again!"
But PC World points out that "Twitter has evolved quickly into a tool that companies rely on. It is a marketing tool. It is a public relations tool. It allows the company to engage with customers and partners in real time. While it hasn't quite achieved the status of a mission-critical application just yet, many companies are discovering Twitter as a valuable asset in their sales and marketing efforts." These people were hurt a little more significantly.
Other commenters around the Web are more politically savvy, wondering if perhaps the governments in countries where censorship blocks news and information in the mainstream media like China and Iran may have been responsible. In these countries, locals have found they can finally have access to real-time events and correct information via Twitter. Others spin a conspiracy theory about the American military, as the Marines have just banned the use of both Twitter and Facebook as an information leak hazard.
The bottom line is, if someone wanted to see how big a black eye they could give the Internet, the worldwide outcry has answered their question. Experts say this sort of hackery is difficult to defend against; perhaps it's only the beginning.