How Ai Weiwei got Branded3 DDoS attacked

  • 0
  • April 21, 2011
Fi Dunphy

Fi Dunphy

Content and Social Strategist

Some interesting news today – we think – as our agency becomes unwittingly embroiled in international politics. Our online petition site, Twitition, has been the subject of sporadic distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks for the past couple of weeks, and until today, we were unable to fathom why anybody would want to try and bring the site down.

Twitition.com is an online petition site we built as an experiment in the power of social media. Over the last 18 months it has grown massively and is now one of the most popular social tools online, with over 650,000 followers on Twitter. Read more about Twitition here.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news of late, you’ll be aware that the prominent Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was arrested by Chinese authorities at Beijing airport on 3rd April, as he passed through on his way to Hong Kong.

Interestingly, articles posted yesterday by the likes of PC World and physorg.com have reported that Internet petition site, Change.org, has recently suffered the same kind of attacks.

Change.org is a social action platform which provides a podium from which users can campaign for social reform; much like Twitition, Change.org utilises the power of the Internet petition, whereby users can collect signatures for their chosen campaign via social media.

Crucially though, both Twitition and Change.org feature highly-subscribed petitions for Beijing to ‘Free Ai Weiwei’, and both have been under the same attack since launch of these campaigns.

According to CBR, Change’s CEO Ben Rattray said: “We do not know the reason or exact source of these attacks… All we know is that after the unprecedented success of a campaign by leading global art museums using our platform to call on the Chinese government to release Ai Weiwei, we became the victims of highly sophisticated denial of service attacks from locations in China.”

While Change.org reported that their site suffered attacks on 18th April, our very own Twitition was down between the 6th and 8th April while our senior web developer, Douglas Radburn, worked with specialists to resolve the issue.

Douglas commented: “Initially, we were baffled as to why anybody would want to wage an e-war on Twitition, let alone who would do it. Nonetheless, we immediately began working closely with our hosting provider in an effort to discover the root of the problem and swiftly quash it.”

He added: “It’s very interesting to learn now that a similar site to our own, featuring an identical and very politically charged campaign, has been under attack. That the attack originated in China is probably the most significant part of the revelation.”

Timeline

3rd April 2011: Ai Weiwei was arrested

4th April: A petition was started on Branded3’s Twitition website at 03:51 GMT by Californian-based Twitter user @gexun (George Ge)

6th – 8th April: Twitition is down while Branded3’s senior developer works with hosting providers to determine the root of the problem

18th April: Change.org reports intermittent interference by DDoS attacks, while Twitition suffers another wave of the same ilk

19th April: @gexun posts a tweet mentioning Change.org and Twitition, suggesting that they were both down because of their associations with campaigns against the detention of Ai Weiwei

21st April: @gexun’s ‘Free Ai Weiwei’ petition on Twitition has so far received exactly 2,550 signatures*. The Guggenheim’s Change.org petition has so far received exactly 111,168 signatures*.

Having suffered another bout of attacks on 18th April, we’re interested to see how this story develops. In the meantime you can read more about Ai Weiwei’s arrest here.

* at time of writing

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