Newswise — Users of the popular networking site Twitter could be the unwitting participants in Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) computer attacks that are rendering Iranian government Web sites inaccessible to users, said Gary Warner, Director of Research in Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Warner said U.S. law punishes participants in DDOS attacks with up to one year in prison and fines that can range into the thousands of dollars.

"The issue that Twitter users need to be aware of is that these types of DDOS attacks are illegal," Warner said. "Users may think clicking a Twitter link to a certain Web page is an innocent way of supporting the anti-government opposition in Iran that is protesting the recent election, but really what they are doing is committing a crime."

Warner said the top search term on Twitter as of 11 a.m. CDT was "Iran Election." Many of the returns on that search are driving users to Web sites that are perpetrating the attack on Iran's government Web pages.

"We've seen these DDOS attacks in previous cases of public unrest like the Israeli Palestinian conflict in late 2008," Warner said. "But what makes this different is that the cyber attackers are using Twitter to organize the attack, which brings many Twitter users without strong political affiliations or previous training in cyber operations into the fray.

"Previous large-scale DDOS attacks were organized more at the grass roots level, where participants were part of an exclusive community," Warner said. "By employing a lower point of entry like Twitter as a tool in the cyber war, all that the attack organizers need is for Twitter users to click the attack links and the Twitter users' computers instantly become a part of the cyber war."

Warner said the Twitter DDOS links are pushing hundreds of thousands of visitors into the Iranian government's network of Web sites every second, rendering the Web pages useless and inaccessible to otherwise legitimate users trying to log on to the sites.

For more visit Warner's blog: http://garwarner.blogspot.com/2009/06/armchair-cyberwarriors-twitter-and.html.

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