Beantin

James Royal-Lawson

Trends

Social denial of service attacks

In computing, a denial of service attack has been a practice deployed by groups and individuals to limit or bring down a web site for a number of decades.

In the age of social networking the denial of service attack has taken the leap from a pure networking phenomenon to a social weapon.

Through the use of social networks it’s possible for large numbers to communicate, plan and execute various ideas. At the same time, due to limitations in how social media presences are managed, individuals (or relatively small groups of people) can cause irreparable damage for brands.

The damage that can be caused isn’t just limited to online. We saw during the London riots last year how relatively easy it is for ideas to travel into the offline world.

Spread rapidly

With the viral way in which comments, ideas (and propaganda) can spread rapidly both within and between social networks – irrespective of whether they are true or false.

I’m beginning to lose track of the amount of times that today is the day that Doc went back to in Back To The Future or the latest celebrity death-hoax.

It’s also very simple to set up a hate group or write a negative blog post or submit a less than favourable review.

There’s plenty already been written about online reputation management and social media crisis management.

What I wanted to highlight was how easy it is to do execute more direct harm to a brand or a company that simply generating negative publicity or spreading poor and disappointing customer experiences.

Reporting content

Most social networks have the ability to report offensive or infringing material – and that’s a good thing.

The automated nature of many reporting processes means that nightmare situations can quickly occur. Such as when Sexual Futurist’s Facebook page was closed seemingly because of a oversight when using Facebook advertising that resulted in a significant number of complaints.

Another example is that of Bizarre magazine that a couple of years ago found multiple aspects of it’s web presence closed down after updates on various services were flagged as inappropriate.

This is an example of a social denial of service attack.

Poo attack!

More bizarre was how a Swedish career-coach and social media profile was recently subjected to a “poo attack” where a “friend” uploaded a number of pictures of faeces to her Facebook wall before subsequently blocking her – making it difficult to discover or do anything about the problem – effectively a SDoS attack.

Pushing a company to bankruptcy?

Earlier this month, one of the largest electronic retail chains here in Sweden, Expert, went bankrupt. A few days later the stores re-opened their doors for a stock liquidation sale.

Outside many of the stores there were huge queues of people who were hoping to grab a bargain.

Long queue of people outside an electronics store in Stockholm

What if people get a taste for this kind of liquidation sale? What if people encouraged each other (via social media) not to shop at a particular chain?

We’ve seen this kind of campaigning for “legitimate” causes to try and change a company’s behaviour. There are also numerous review sites where company’s are judged and rated – negatively and positively.

How long before the power of social forces a legitimate company into bankruptcy? It might sound a little far fetched, but with the tools and platforms available to everyday people, it’s more simply achievable than you may think.

It might even happen unintentionally. Also earlier this month we saw the example of how a 15 year old Dutch girl’s party invitation going viral spreading to 30000 people, 3000 of which turned up in the small village of Haren in the Netherlands causing the cancellation of the party and the drafting in of 900 riot police to secure the town.

Social denial of service attacks

So social denial of service attacks can be of varying size and style:

A relatively small number of individuals disrupting a person’s or organisation’s social media activities by abusing the tools put into place to help protect users from abuse.

A large number of individuals drowns an individual or organisations social media activities in unwanted content, or spreads content that is incorrect, misleading or undesirable.

The first mention I can find about SDoS attacks is by Joe Gregorio and how working group mailing list has it’s progress (deliberately) derailed with a constant stream of objections and wildly divergent proposals.

The phenomena was brought up again by Reuven Cohen in 2009 in relation to a spate of social hacktivism attacks.

Can it be prevented?

Many social denial of service attacks are impossible to predict or prevent; perhaps at best you can be aware of the possibility and perhaps be prepared – especially if you rely very heavily on a particular social platform.

How do you think you could prepare or prevent a social denial of service attack?


James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

How many Twitter users in Sweden 2012?

In February 2011 Intellecta Corporate published the results of their first Twitter Census.

Hampus Brynolf and Intellecta have today presented the results of their second Twitter Census. There are almost 300,000 Swedish Twitter accounts.


299000 Swedish Twitter accounts

Comparable method

The same method as the first Twitter census has been used to decide if a Twitter account is Swedish or not. Details of the method can be found in last year’s blog post. Using the same method means that we can directly compare the figures from last year with those from this.

In December 2010 there were 91316 Swedish Twitter accounts as reported in the first Twitter census. As of April 2011 there were 299000. Basically three times as many in just over a year.

Graph showing the increase over time to 299000 Swedish Twitter accounts

Svenska Twitter

In December 2011 Aitellu presented the results of their Twitter research. Which they have recently updated. Their method for counting Swedish accounts differs to that of Intellecta’s, so the two figures are not directly comparable. That said, in January 2011 Aitellu counted 146995 Swedish Twitter accounts. In May 2012 they announced that the figure had risen to 318651.That’s roughly double as many in half a year.

Both sets of research clearly show that Twitter is growing faster than ever. What Hampus also revealed today was how the reach of Twitter had broadened dramatically. In the original Twitter census, the word “journalist” was the most common word in bio texts on profiles. Now words such as “student” and “musik” have taken the lead as most frequently used.

171000 Active Swedes

Just as last time, the survey calculated the number of active Swedish Twitter accounts. Last time round, just under 36000 accounts had Tweeted at least three times, had at least one Swedish follower or followed at least one Swede, and Tweeted at least once in the 30 days up to when the analysis of the account was performed. The comparable figure in this year’s census is 171000. An increase of 475% in about 15 months.

Very active Swedes

Last year, the “Twitter elite” as Hampus jokingly named them, were 11215. These were people who, on average, tweeted at least once a day during December 2010. The number of very active accounts has risen in in line with the overall number of active accounts In April 2012 the figure stands at 52887.

It’s still the case that a relatively small number of Twitter users account for the vast majority of tweets. 7% of users have generated 75% of tweets.

Flashback

Although the Swedish user base has moved beyond the technology interested and those working within media, Twitter is still not commonplace and is dwarfed in size by Facebook (which in many age groups has a 100% reach in Sweden), and probably beaten by a number of other forums and networks such as Flashback, Linkedin and perhaps even Instagram.

Size isn’t everything and although the survey has shown that the vast majority of accounts show little sign of activity, there is an increasingly diversified set of clusters and communities containing active users. In some of these clusters, Twitter is an important platform for communication.


James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

The state of Swedish websites 2012

Each year Web Service Award surveys Swedish web responsibles and web managers their opinion about the quality of their web sites and working environment as well as how they are intending to develop them.


Picture of a stage with a large projector screen in the background and audience in the foreground

570 Swedish web managers were surveyed during January of this year for the 2012 trend report including representatives from companies, public services, councils, and other organisations.

The proportion of each type of organisation (and indeed size) is not representative of Sweden as a whole. Large companies and organisations are hugely over-represented (76% of those surveyed, whilst only 0.56% of the total in Sweden), and smaller companies are massively under-represented (24% of survey, but 76% in Sweden as a whole). So some care has to be taken with the figures.

This survey gives us an insight into what web managers think and how they feel about the world of web they work with. It’s not a survey of the visitors of websites, neither is it a survey of management or, ultimately, decision makers.

The report (in Swedish) is a whopping 98 pages. There’s a huge amount of data in there. I’m just going to write about a few points which I feel deserve highlighting.

The year of mobile development

Almost half of respondents said that they will be increasing their digital investments in 2012 compared to 2011. It would appear that a good chunk of that money is going to go into developing mobile solutions. 42% said that they are planning to produce a mobile ready version of their website, and 21% said they were planning a mobile app during 2012.

Graph showing that 61% have no mobile solution at all

61% said that they didn’t currently have any form of mobile solution (neither app of mobile ready website), so if the web responsibles surveyed manage to achieve what they’ve planned then next year this figure should drop through the floor! 2012 is looking like the year of mobile development.

Lack of resources internally

Despite a constantly increasing amount of investment in digital channels, there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in internal resources that take care of them.

I find it quite shocking that despite the importance of websites for organisations, and the money invested in (re)developing them, a staggering 50% of respondents only work half-time with their sites. Only 23% at most are dedicated web managers working full time with their sites. Only 32% say that they have enough resources to manage their website’s content.

graph showing 36% work up to 25% with their websites

Given that almost half of the organisations surveyed are large organisations with over 500 employees (44%), the low number of dedicated web responsibles cannot be explained solely by a corresponding percentage of SME sites where it is would be more expected that a person has multiple roles.

With the time and knowledge needed to order from and work with external agencies, analyse and reflect upon visitor statistics and KPIs, take on board usability testing results, deciding what to A/B test and tweak on your website, chase content owners, meet and work with internal stake holders – amongst many other things – it’s no wonder that so many websites under deliver, or need to be (at often great cost) totally rebuilt every few years,

EpiServer dominates

Amongst the sites in the survey, EpiServer dominates overwhelmingly as the CMS of choice for the larger organisations (over 50 employees) with 50% using the Swedish platform to server up their websites.

graph showing 43% of all surveyed have EpiServer

It’s a different picture amongst the smaller organisations surveyed (less than 50 employees). Here we see EpiServer’s being used as the publishing tool for 22% of surveyed websites. 36% responded with “other”, which presumably includes an array of CMS tools created by smaller companies.

I’m surprised that WordPress didn’t feature higher amongst smaller companies. My experience is that it’s pretty much the default CMS choice for this size of company, but only 1% across the entire survey irrespective of organisation size (which is presumably just 5 respondents) said that WordPress powered their website.

Positive trends

Generally speaking most stats in the report point to positive developments with websites and how they are managed. One of the exceptions is the lack of (dedicated) resources to run, maintain and develop the web and digital presence of an organisation.

We’re learning and moving forward as web managers and web professionals, but It’s still early days, and I think many of the answers show that.


James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

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