GitHub Battling 'Largest DDoS Attack' In Its History

GitHub is still seeing the effects of what it calls the largest distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, cyberattack in the company’s history. The attack started about 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, according to a Friday blog post on the company's website.

The San Francisco-based coding website said in the Friday statement that it believes the attack occurred in order "to convince the company to remove a specific class of content."

This morning, GitHub posted on its Twitter account: "All systems reporting at 100%. Attack traffic continues, so we remain on high alert." This came just hours after another Tweet from the company stating, "The DDoS attack has evolved and we are working to mitigate."

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"[It] involves a wide combination of attack vectors," GitHub's Friday statement read. "These include every vector we've seen in previous attacks as well as some sophisticated new techniques that use the web browsers of unsuspecting, uninvolved people to flood with high levels of traffic."

A DDoS attack involves directing a large amount of traffic to a website’s or network’s servers in order to overload them to the point that renders the server or servers temporarily unusable.

"We are completely focused on mitigating this attack," GitHub said in its statement. "Our top priority is making sure is available to all our users while deflecting malicious traffic."

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the attack is likely an attempt by China to shut down anti-censorship tools, as the traffic was directed from Chinese search engine Baidu Inc. The search engine, nicknamed the Google of China, denied any involvement, according to the report, stating that it has ruled out the possibility of security problems or hacker attacks in its product after careful inspection.

"Security is a moving target," said Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Ontario-based Xylotek Solutions. "The minute you build a higher fence, there is someone who has already perfected a bigger ladder. It’s certainly an area where the growth is never going to slow down. The bigger you become and the more people are aware of you, the bigger the target is painted on you."

Grosfield describes DDoS attacks as varying in severity and can come in different ways, saying they can be very sophisticated and can ’cripple" the front end of a company’s customer-facing equipment. He adds that the longer that vulnerability lasts, the more damage it can do, as a server is more vulnerable to attacks that can come in behind the initial front.

"I think it shows the importance of staying abreast [of] emerging technologies and innovations in the security sector, because attacks are becoming more sophisticated," he said.

"So you need to go to lengths to defend against that muscle to become more sophisticated. Don’t be afraid to look for outside help and get experts in the industry to help you, because the worst thing you can do is rely on your internal IT expertise in the event it’s already failed you."

Grosfield added that for a company, the worst part of a cyberattack may not even occur during the attack itself, as once the technical issues are resolved, the company may have public-relations and customer-relations issues at hand.

"Part of the picture that doesn't get as much attention is the damage to the brand and reputation," he said. "The impression that people get is that you’re vulnerable and unprotected because you were victimized. That is something that generates fear and uncertainty."