Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the latest information.
Twitter users were unable to tell their "followers" what they were doing, and Facebookers had trouble updating their "friends" Thursday morning, when hackers attacked the social-networking sites in an apparent attempt to silence a single political blogger.
Both sites, as well as blog site LiveJournal, suffered "denial of service" attacks, causing problems for more than 300 million users. Hackers completely shut down Twitter at around 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time by overwhelming the micro-blogging site with requests. The site got back online around 11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to reports, but "remained under attack" for several hours.
A similar attack was reported on Facebook and one on LiveJournal early Thursday morning, according to news reports. Those attacks were less severe, although 21 million LiveJournal users lost access for an hour. Both that site and Facebook were back online within a few hours.
"Attacks such as this are malicious efforts orchestrated to disrupt and make unavailable services such as online banks' credit card payment gateways, and in this case, [social-networking sites'] customers or users," Twitter's co-founder Biz Stone tells reporters.
The simultaneous attacks are thought to have been a coordinated effort aimed at muzzling a pro-Georgian blogger, known as "Cyxymu," according to CNET News.com, quoting a Facebook security executive. User information was not compromised in the attack, the companies note.
People feel a very real pain when a site like this goes down
"Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively coordinated attack," Twitter's blog reports. "This activity is about saturating a service with so many requests that it cannot respond to legitimate requests, thereby denying service to intended customers or users."
Such service interruptions can cause a lot of problems for individuals and companies, who have gotten into the habit of using the sites every day, experts say.
"Big companies are reliant on Twitter for marketing and consumer outreach," one expert tells reporters. "People feel a very real pain when a site like this goes down."
The last time so many users were affected by a denial-of-service attack was in February 2000, when a 15-year-old cut off access to eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, E-Trade and CNN. The teen was arrested and now works as a security consultant, according to news reports.
"We've worked hard to achieve technical stability, and we're proud of our Engineering and Operations teams," Twitter's blog reports. "Nevertheless, today's massive, globally distributed attack was a reminder that there's still lots of work ahead."
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.