GoDaddy Wasn’t Hacked: How a Tweet Caused a Media Panic

It felt as though the entire Internet had gone down yesterday as sites hosted or otherwise dependent on GoDaddy were knocked offline for several hours during what was widely assumed to be a righteous hack at the hands of Anonymous. This assumption was made in part because we’re so caught up in this heated battle between the Anonymous collective and seemingly every Internet corporation out there. Anonymous is synonymous with big sites going offline, but GoDaddy insists that a hack wasn’t at fault for Monday’s downtime.

GoDaddy CEO Scott Wagner released a statement on Tuesday explaining that the downtime experienced by GoDaddy customers wasn’t the result of a hack, but of a series of events that led to router tables becoming corrupted. The result was six hours of service disruption and a widespread panic which took place on social networks. If this is true, then mass media indeed owes GoDaddy a retraction or two.

A tweet sent out by someone identifying themselves as “Anonymous Own3r” claimed responsibility for the GoDaddy outage. This individual further contested that the hack was not the actions of the greater Anonymous collective, but that he/she was acting independently.

The official Twitter account for Anonymous (collective) retweeted Own3r’s #TangoDown reference in celebration of the apparent hack done by one of its own. Again, this did not in any way take place of a claim that the collective itself conducted the hack.

The result was a wave of headlines from virtually every news organization on the planet claiming that Anonymous had taken down GoDaddy’s servers for six hours. This is a sensational headline, but it’s hardly accurate, is it? Even if you trust the words of nameless Twitter users, you could hardly say that a member or associate of the group is acting on behalf of the collective (especially when they deny it). A Boy Scout may rob a liquor store, but that certainly doesn’t warrant headlines stating that the Boy Scouts robbed a liquor store, does it?

A hack doesn’t worry me quite as much as internal incompetence.

This makes me think, more than anything, that GoDaddy is accurate in its claim that the downtime wasn’t the result of a hack. If it wasn’t a hack, then it was an internal error that caused such a severe problem. But people are almost used to hacks at this point. Hearing that Anonymous took down a website (or series of sites) is practically old news as it has claimed responsibility for so many infiltrations in recent history.

I can forgive a hack very easily. It’s happened to our government, banks, cloud services, and other Web hosts in the past. Hacks happen. You plug the hole and move on, perhaps a little more humble about your security in the future. What is borderline inexcusable is that big of a problem being caused by internal issues entirely under GoDaddy’s control.

If instilling confidence in its brand is GoDaddy’s aim at admitting internal incompetence, then I’d have to say that it failed miserably.

I’m more inclined to believe both parties. It’s quite possible that Anonymous Own3r was executing an attack on GoDaddy at the time things went down. It’s not like GoDaddy isn’t a target for every DDos attacker on the planet already. It’s a big target, and I can only imagine how many attempts are made on GoDaddy’s servers every day.

It’s equally possible that something coincidentally went terribly wrong within GoDaddy at that time. GoDaddy may have fallen to a series of unfortunate events and to anyone on the outside, it would appear to be a successful attack. Perhaps it’s that DDos attack that triggered the responses on GoDaddy’s end that resulted in the collapse of its router tables?

Would it concern you more if a bank was robbed or if it just lost your money by accident?

We’ll probably never know exactly what happened yesterday. GoDaddy is red in the face and many of its customers are undoubtedly seeking higher ground elsewhere. There really isn’t a way for GoDaddy to win in this case, no matter what it says.

For me, I actually hope it was a hack, because it would worry me a lot more that an internal event could have such a catastrophic result on service for such a large organization. Six hours is a long time for any online business to essentially be offline.

I’ll put this question to you: Do you think that Anonymous Own3r took down GoDaddy, or do you believe GoDaddy’s statement that what happened was actually the result of an internal fumble? Which would concern you more?

Photo: Blmurch

6 comments On GoDaddy Wasn’t Hacked: How a Tweet Caused a Media Panic

  • My opinion on it is that they are using this story as a cover-up. They want people to feel secure in their service offerings and a hack would put that in jeopardy. They likely never thought of the bank analogy. Great read, thank you.

  • Probably the DDoS attack lasted longer than the first one random crash on their servers, regardless because a million dollar company sell domains and they don’t take any precautions for malicious attacks, until they become vulnerable to face these problems and then realizing that their problem was the server that has to additionally to go down by Anonymous.

  • I know that GoDaddy is telling everyone they didn’t get hacked but I’m not buying it that easily either. Router tables can be rebuilt pretty quickly and having to switch to Verisign DNS servers implies there is more to the story…

  • Wagner was probably off murdering more elephants in Africa and not paying attention to his business and his wheel ran off. Remember that NameCheap contributes some of its profits to the preservation of elephants…. we don’t need any more Joseph Kony’s.

  • Personally, I think it was attacked and rather than admit that for some odd reason, they want to claim it’s their own fault. I agree wholeheartedly with this article.

    GoDaddy, if in fact it was their own fault, has at least shown they don’t have the redundancy in place to handle catastrophic front line failure.

    It was their DNSs that went down apparently? Since DNS is inherently fail safe and redundant from the ground up, how did it affect all of their customers?

    I really don’t understand that part myself.

  • It’s bullshit. Godaddy was hacked, maybe not buy Anonymous or this guy but it was a hack. I know a thing or two about router tablets and it shouldn’t have taken six hours to correct this. I think Godaddy are trying to cover their backs by not admitting they were vulnerable to a hack. I mean c’mon Godaddy are hardly the most reputable and respected company, look at their marketing stunts and the Bullshit they tried to pull with SOPA and PIPA to begin with.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson