The coding website is well-known sector for projects such as security applications including graphics engines, and web app frameworks, and is used by programmers and tech firms to develop and share tools. On Thursday, the website was hit by DDoS attack of a scale which has forced GitHub staff to rally and attempt to alleviate access problems.
GitHub reported that the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is the largest in github.com’s history. Beginning on March 26, at the time of writing the onslaught is yet to end.
According to GitHub, the attack “involves a wide combination of attack vectors,” which “includes 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 github.com with high levels of traffic.”
“Based on reports we’ve received, we believe the intent of this attack is to convince us to remove a specific class of content,” GitHub says.
GitHub has a suspicion that the “specific class” of content may be associated with China. Wall Street Journal has stated that GitHub’s traffic surge is based on visits intended for China’s largest search engine, Baidu. Security experts told the publication that the vast levels of traffic intended for Baidu has paralyzed GitHub over the DDoS attack’s duration.
The attacks targeted two Chinese anti-censorship projects hosted on GitHub. One is related to the contents of The New York Times for Chinese users, whereas the other project, Greatfire, is operated by a group that tracks websites that are censored by the Chinese government and figures out the means for Chinese users to gain access to them.
Chinese security specialist [email protected] on Insight Labs, currently living outside of the country, said when using Baidu at the time of the first attack, “my first thought was someone naughty XSSed the page,” and after further inspection, discovered the page was trying to load two URLs: github.com/greatefire/ and github.com/cn-nytimes/ every few seconds.
There are two specific sections of GitHub which have been targeted. One content area is run by Greatfire.org, an anticensorship organization which releases tools to help Chinese citizens circumvent the county’s stringent censorship controls — known colloquially as the “Great Firewall of China. The second links to copies of the New York Time’s Chinese language website and other banned domains.