Botnets, networks of compromised zombie computers, can be put to use to take down websites, send junk mail, break into networks and more. Now a botnet is believed to be used to drown out the political protest in Russia. Ten pro government messages are showing up in the #triumphalnaya hashtag every second, making it very hard for protest tweets to be seen:
Maxim Goncharov, a senior researcher at security firm Trend Micro, said the attack on Twitter had all the hallmarks of being co-ordinated by a botnet.
This is a network of PCs, usually running Windows, that have been infected by a virus putting them under the control of a cyber criminal.
Mr Goncharov said the machines, or bots, in this network had targeted chatter about the protests in Moscow’s Triumphal Square.
The protests followed accusations about irregularities during Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Results showed a significant dip in support for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
Some of the chatter on Twitter was organised around the topic name, or hashtag, of #triumphalnaya
Twitter is becoming a place for both political protest and and for democracy to be silenced. Twitter, the company, needs to do a better job of detecting and deleting spam accounts. This is democracy at stake, and Twitter is becoming an important communication tool in political protests. It shouldn’t be so easy for bots and spammers to take hold on Twitter.
Yes, by not updating your computer and using an insecure operating system, you can unknowingly help criminals send junk mail, take down websites, break into networks and silence political protest. Maybe it would be better if the average person used a computer that was more like an appliance — like, say, an iPad.