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Not just for fanfic
April 6, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Livejournal has been straining to keep up service in the face of repeated DDoS attacks. Fingers are being pointed at the Kremlin, but others are skeptical. While often associated with media fandom in the English speaking world, Livejournal is extremely popular in Russia, and home to presidents and dissidents (info) alike.

Medvedev's own LJ was affected by the attack. Problems persist, though they seem to be intermittent and depend on which cluster you are connecting to.

Previously, Livejournal's licensing and eventual sale to SUP had been greeted with suspicion by many in the Russian userbase.
posted by kmz (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like to think the Russian blame situation was all a cunning ruse perpetrated by Dreamwidth and ao3, actually.
posted by elizardbits at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wow. I thought it was just my luck that the week I decide to renew my journaling habit, LiveJournal goes down for hours at a time.

Never once did I suspect Russian hackers.
posted by crackingdes at 2:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't post a lot, but I read LJ every day and haven't run up against any DoS problems so far. I guess it really does depend on where you are and what cluster you connect to.

Still, it's sad to hear about LJ having these problems. I know it's a legacy platform at this point, but I like its simplicity, and there are at least a couple of people that I only am in touch with via LJ. I hope they get the problems solved. They remain useful in my life.
posted by hippybear at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, good thing I decided to self host last month. The export facility is something of a catastrophe. It wound up being easier to fiddle with my feed reader's internal representation (yay SQLite) than their "backup" facility.

Ultimately, it wasn't the downtime so much as the amount of spam comments coming through that motivated the switch.
posted by pwnguin at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2011


I wonder why they felt the need for a Russian business presence in the first place, if the whole reason for being popular was because they did not have a Russian business presence. It's like saying, "Hey, we're popular for not having ___. Let's get us some ____." Or maybe "We don't know why we're popular, but it has something to do with ___. Instead of bothering to find out, let's get some ____." OR "You are popular with ___. We are ____ and we want a piece."
posted by amethysts at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm a livejournalista for a decade now and I've never thought of LJ as any more prone to "media fandom" or fanfic than, say, the rest of the Internet. I've heard LJ is not particularly esteemed on mefi, as well, so I must be missing something.

It's good to know that LJ is under attack, rather than being in the grip of death throes.
posted by sonascope at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a long-time livejournal user (watch me document my exciting bucket list! and talk about the concerts I went to so I won't forget them!), I'm really thinking about moving to Dreamwidth after this week. Other people may not have seen the outages, but I've been intermittently unable to post/comment/etc. since it started.

I still have plenty of el-jay friends, not all of whom are into "media fandom" and I'm going to be grumpy if I lose track of some of them by moving platforms over Russian hackers.
posted by immlass at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm still pretty active on LJ and, yeah, the outages have been an issue. Fortunately, LJ is one of the easiest platforms to archive, so I'm not worried about losing content, just contacts.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2011


I wonder why they felt the need for a Russian business presence in the first place

Um... maybe because they were purchased by a bunch of Russians in 2006?
posted by hippybear at 2:50 PM on April 6, 2011


I still use LJ, particularly to keep in touch with close friends.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wondered why I was having trouble reading fanfiction.
posted by cereselle at 3:15 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus, LJ is the home to various and esoteric groups, who are devoted to various, esoteric things.

It's also really the only single place where I can read about, on a daily basis: crock pot recipes, the Catholic Church, steampunk, bad Doctor Who fanfic, actual Doctor Who news I care about, and soccer players from Uruguay. (If you're really curious about the latter, then join us in LJ comm: fuckyeahceleste)
posted by spinifex23 at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used LJ for quite awhile, and I remember having conversations at the time of the sale that were more along the lines of, great, well, now all of us non-Russian users are going to essentially be at the mercy of the situation in a foreign country not really known for long-term stability.

Not the sort of thing I *like* feeling vindicated about. But I do feel a bit better not having to worry about it now. I do sometimes miss the communities, though.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never thought of LJ as any more prone to "media fandom" or fanfic than, say, the rest of the Internet.

I've been on LJ for just about that long, too, because many of my local friends tend to use it for party invitations and the like, and probably 80% of the posts I see on there are fanfic related.

I suppose that says as much about my friends as it does about LJ, but still.

(I had deeply hoped they would all take it to dreamwidth so I wouldn't have to wade through all the squee anymore but instead they all have apparently decided to just crosspost everything to both sites. The recent outages have almost been a relief. I didn't want to go to that party anyway.)
posted by ook at 3:30 PM on April 6, 2011


Damn you hackers, get out of my ONTD! I need my meme/gif/LOL fix and hate it when LJ goes down... and I HATE all the annoying advertising interstitials it's infested with now.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:35 PM on April 6, 2011


Life with LJ's servers is always an adventure, evidenced by the fact that ONTD has brought down LJ all by its lonesome in the past.
posted by kmz at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2011


Kremline probably does a lot of bad things, but one thing it doesn't do is blocking the Internet. In my three and a half years in Russia, I never encountered a single instance of any anti-Russia or anti-Kremlin website or online article (whether in English or in Russian) being inaccessible. May be things have changed since I left Russia, but back then, Kremlin's modus operandi appeared to be to have a cyber army that would flood the comments section of a negative article with all sorts of positive propaganda (in subtle and blatant ways). You could read a negative article, but you couldn't objectively discuss it in comments. Oh, the fun times on La Russophobe!
posted by vidur at 4:41 PM on April 6, 2011


Like, OMG!!!!!! This kind of day is why I slit my wrists. My parents are still acting stupid about me smoking cigarettes. Oh and now LJ was ddos earlier today. Whatever that means. I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life. I was right in the middle of a long entry. I'M SO ANGRY RIGHT NOW. This misery will never end.
posted by the aloha at 5:14 PM on April 6, 2011


In post-Soviet Russia, Livejournal has mysterious dramatastic meltdown on YOU!
posted by No-sword at 5:18 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


the aloha: You're not using a third-party LJ app to do your posts? You should research and get one. It'll save you a world of headaches.
posted by hippybear at 6:45 PM on April 6, 2011


I've been bummed about LJ for a while. I think it's a great idea that could have gone so much further but just sort of got stuck in 2004. But the whole idea of linked journals with complex privacy settings/sharing options, combined with communities, is a really great one.

I have a group of friends around the world that I connect with primarily via LJ and so I've stayed for them, but the number of them that actually use it (and the frequency of posting/commenting) has dwindled. In my group of friends, at least, facebook has sort of overtaken LJ as the method of sharing the mundane details of our lives, but FB doesn't lend itself to the same level of sharing of personal stuff or community-development that LJ does.
posted by lunasol at 7:04 PM on April 6, 2011


Oh, yeah. My thriving group of LJ friends have pretty much all abandoned it for Facebook. I'm down to 3 or 4 people who post regularly, and a huge list of journals which haven't been updated for years.

It's sad, really.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on April 6, 2011


LJ was my primary social network for several years, and even though there's still an awful lot of fanwank and such on it, there are also quite a few good communities left. But, even then, I don't think that the comms really have much of a reason to stay around save for force of habit. scans_daily (previously on the blue) has been on Dreamwidth for a while now and is doing better than ever. There are many other comms whose members really don't care what someone said back in 2005. Most of my friends list are people that I used to know better on previous forums and such, that I keep on my flist mostly because they might be hurt if I took them off. I suspect that, if LJ just up and died, or if it reached some threshold of unusability or sheer aggravation, I and others might just leave with more relief than sorrow.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:48 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh god I am so relieved. I actually though my uni had cottoned on to my habit of reading awfully explicit rpf (DON'T JUDGE ME) during lectures over the campus wi-fi and had specifically blocked LJ.

So, tumblr for the rest of the day then? Oookay.
posted by jaynewould at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bastards took down ONTD right before a Britney Spears video was released. A Britney Spears video! That's like ONTD Christmas!
posted by brookedel at 8:14 PM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


On Dreamwidth vs. LJ: I think that the access codes are a barrier for shifting communities (and people) from LJ to DW. Now, I love DW, give them money every year, and even have done volunteer work for them in the past. However, in terms of importing communities, I think it'd only work if the members were aware and willing to jump ship.

Or, in other words, when a friend suggested that the aforementioned fuckyeahceleste move over to DW: "YOU try to convince 100+ Uruguayan soccer nuts who just want a place to squee over Diego Forlan on an hourly basis to switch over just because Lj is TEH EVIL. I'M not going to."
posted by spinifex23 at 8:31 PM on April 6, 2011


Yeah, what's going to convince me to move to DW is when all my friends go and/or when LJ simply becomes unusable for technical reasons. I think Halloween Jack is right that there are folks I'll drop when I move accounts, but for now the people I do communicate with on el jay are what keeps me there.
posted by immlass at 8:57 PM on April 6, 2011


(That and the fact that Xjournal doesn't do Dreamwidth. I really need to look into a Mac-compatible desktop client for posting there.)
posted by immlass at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2011


I don't think it's the Kremlin, primarily because the idea that there's such a thing as "the Kremlin" that is capable of taking concerted action as a unified body at this point is laughable. (No matter what chucklefuck sovietologists puke up on reflex.) "Putinism," whatever that was, is currently in freefall, largely because the ruling elite has turned against it and is busy cultivating the blogosphere and making rather loud liberal noises. If there's any government affiliation to these attacks at all, which I doubt, it's almost certainly some mid-ranking security officer who thinks he's going to ingratiate himself somehow but is more than likely to end up in deep shit.

Kremline probably does a lot of bad things, but one thing it doesn't do is blocking the Internet. In my three and a half years in Russia, I never encountered a single instance of any anti-Russia or anti-Kremlin website or online article (whether in English or in Russian) being inaccessible. May be things have changed since I left Russia, but back then, Kremlin's modus operandi appeared to be to have a cyber army that would flood the comments section of a negative article with all sorts of positive propaganda (in subtle and blatant ways). You could read a negative article, but you couldn't objectively discuss it in comments. Oh, the fun times on La Russophobe!

Oh, there might be some 50-cent-army types out there, but you're delusional if you think the majority of those comments aren't genuine.
posted by nasreddin at 9:36 PM on April 6, 2011


Also, you can tell by this paragraph that "Putin Watcher" doesn't know what he's talking about:
Furthermore, an attack of this magnitude was clearly coordinated by an organization with significant resources. Russian bloggers have pointed fingers at the Kremlin youth group "Nashi." Although it is probably impossible to determine the exact source, the DDoS attacks have been the favored technique in blogging attacks linked to the Russian government in the past. In fact, both the attacks on the Estonian government (during the controversy about removing the monument to the Soviet army) and the Georgian government (during Russia's conflict with Georgia) were DDoS attacks.
A DDoS attack does not require an organization with significant resources. A botnet is enough, and there are plenty of Russians with botnets on hand. As for DDoS attacks being some kind of EVIL EMPIRE KGB trademark, that's just silly. You want to shut someone down on the Internet, you DDoS them. If anything, the fact that the attacks aren't more sophisticated is a sign that serious resources aren't being deployed.

But of course the only message a Western article about Russia can ever have is "EVIL GOVERNMENT OPPRESSES HEROIC ACTIVISTS," so this is just par for the course.
posted by nasreddin at 9:42 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Navalny's LJ has this quote from a Kaspersky expert, which supports what I was saying above:
We don't know exactly how many botnets are taking part in organizing the attack, but we are sure of at least one such botnet. It is built on the basis of the DDoS-bot Darkness/Optima, which is currently quite popular on the black market of Russian cybercrime. For sale are not only Trojans (bots), but also networks of infected machines based on them, as well as services for conducting DDoS attacks on a given Internet resource.
Basically, we have no grounds for accusing anyone in particular at this point. I would be willing to bet that this was started by some bureaucrat or oligarch with ties to organized crime (and above a certain level, literally everyone in Russia has ties to organized crime) who's about to be targeted with corruption allegations and wanted to head them off in the most hamfisted way possible. The idea that this is an anti-dissident political gesture strikes me as rather implausible.
posted by nasreddin at 9:54 PM on April 6, 2011


Oh, there might be some 50-cent-army types out there, but you're delusional if you think the majority of those comments aren't genuine.

Well, I personally don't know for sure if the comments were genuine or fake or Kremlin-coordinated (hence the "appeared to be" in my comment). Since the articles themselves weren't blocked, I didn't worry much about the comments. Kremlin has far more effective ways to counter political dissent in the real world for it to bother with online articles. Anyway, it's not as if the comments are of a much better quality "in the West" (Hello, YouTube!).
posted by vidur at 10:18 PM on April 6, 2011


The kink memes I follow on LJ are now liberally sprinkled with prompts to the tune of
"Modern AU. Character A is a LJ addict who can't get on to get his fandom fix. Character B finds some interesting ways to distract him from his plight."

I, a permanent account holder, could make great use of some Character B, I tell you what.
posted by Mizu at 11:41 PM on April 6, 2011


Drugoi (one of the top Russian LJers who was targeted in the attacks) attributes the DDoS to competitors who want to force LJ users onto their own platform. That makes sense to me too.
posted by nasreddin at 7:44 AM on April 7, 2011


This is pretty clever -- LJ has published a map and IP addresses of all the computers which are involved in the current DDoS attack against them.

I don't know how much good it'll do, but I think it's an interesting tactic to try to fight back.
posted by hippybear at 7:20 PM on April 8, 2011


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