OpenAI suggested that the significant outages on November 8, experienced by users across ChatGPT and the application programming interface, were caused by a suspected distributed denial-of-service attack, and a group calling itself Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility.
In a Telegram channel posting, the hackers claimed the attack was due to ChatGPT having “a general biasness towards Israel and against Palestine.” Although OpenAI has yet comment on any attribution for the alleged DDoS attack, Anonymous Sudan is known to favor such attacks against perceived enemies. The Telegram posting accused OpenAI of cooperating with the “occupation state of Israel,” and went on to claim that “AI is now being used in the development of weapons and by intelligence agencies like Mossad.” The hacktivist group added that it will target any American company and said that Israel is employing AI “to further oppress the Palestinians.”
Who Is Anonymous Sudan?
According to Trustwave SpiderLabs researchers, Anonymous Sudan is likely a sub-group of the pro-Russian Killnet threat group. There appears little if any evidence that the group is financially motivated, and the targets appear to mostly be those that Russia also opposes. The main Anonymous operations groups, such as they are these days, have disavowed any connection with Anonymous Sudan, the researchers say.
ChatGPT DDoS Timeline
After users started complaining of ChatGPT being down, an OpenAI incident report was posted at 12:03 PST on November 8, which said the issue was being investigated.
Within 40 minutes, an additional posting to that incident report said that a fix had been implemented and that OpenAI was monitoring the results.
Unfortunately, the results weren’t that positive, as a further update with a 17:23 PST timestamp noted that “periodic outages” were still being experienced.
At 19:49 PST, OpenAI confirmed, “We are dealing with periodic outages due to an abnormal traffic pattern reflective of a DDoS attack. We are continuing work to mitigate this.”
What Does ChatGPT Itself Have To Say?
I asked ChatGPT itself what caused the November 8 outages, and it replied that it wasn’t aware of any. “If there were any issues, it must have been a blip in the digital cosmos that I missed,” the AI stated, adding, “Everything seems to be running smoothly now, though!” And, as evidenced by my question and the ChatGPT answer, it’s correct on that last point at least. I have approached OpenAI for a statement and will update this story in due course.
The Cybersecurity Expert View
“Cybercriminals attack from all angles and are incredibly fearless in their attempts. DDoS attacks are a clever way of targeting a company without having to hack the mainframe, yet the perpetrators can remain largely anonymous,” Jake Moore, the global cybersecurity advisor at security vendor ESET, says.
Given that OpenAI remains one of the most talked about technology companies, and ChatGPT is a technology constantly in the news, the cyber-crosshairs will continue to focus on it. “All that can be done to future-proof their networks is to continue to expect the unexpected,” Moore concludes.