OpenAI battles DDoS against its API and ChatGPT services

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OpenAI has been grappling with a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeting its API and ChatGPT services over the past 24 hours.

While the company has not yet disclosed specific details about the source of these attacks, OpenAI acknowledged that they are dealing with “periodic outages due to an abnormal traffic pattern reflective of a DDoS attack.”

Users affected by these incidents reported encountering errors such as “something seems to have gone wrong” and “There was an error generating a response” when accessing ChatGPT.

This recent wave of attacks follows a major outage that impacted ChatGPT and its API on Wednesday, along with partial ChatGPT outages on Tuesday, and elevated error rates in Dall-E on Monday.

OpenAI displayed a banner across ChatGPT’s interface, attributing the disruptions to “exceptionally high demand” and reassuring users that efforts were underway to scale their systems.

Threat actor group Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility for the DDoS attacks on OpenAI. According to the group, the attacks are in response to OpenAI’s perceived bias towards Israel and against Palestine.

The attackers utilised the SkyNet botnet, which recently incorporated support for application layer attacks or Layer 7 (L7) DDoS attacks. In Layer 7 attacks, threat actors overwhelm services at the application level with a massive volume of requests to strain the targets’ server and network resources.

Brad Freeman, Director of Technology at SenseOn, commented:

“Distributed denial of service attacks are internet vandalism. Low effort, complexity, and in most cases more of a nuisance than a long-term threat to a business. Often DDOS attacks target services with high volumes of traffic which can be ’off-ramped, by their cloud or Internet service provider.

However, as the attacks are on Layer 7 they will be targeting the application itself, therefore OpenAI will need to make some changes to mitigate the attack. It’s likely the threat actor is sending complex queries to OpenAI to overload it, I wonder if they are using AI-generated content to attack AI content generation.”

However, the attribution of these attacks to Anonymous Sudan has raised suspicions among cybersecurity researchers. Some experts suggest that this could be a false flag operation and the group might have connections to Russia instead which, along with Iran, is suspected of stoking the bloodshed and international outrage to benefit its domestic interests.

The situation once again highlights the ongoing challenges faced by organisations dealing with DDoS attacks and the complexities of accurately identifying the perpetrators.

(Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash)

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