Exclamation alarm on smartphone showing ChatGPT outage due to DDoS Attack

OpenAI Attributes ChatGPT Outages to a DDoS Attack Claimed by a Russian Hacktivist Group

OpenAI has attributed ChatGPT outages to a targeted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. A suspected Russian hacktivist group Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility.

“We are dealing with periodic outages due to an abnormal traffic pattern reflective of a DDoS attack,” OpenAI said. “We are continuing work to mitigate this.”

Users encountered a message stating that “ChatGPT is at capacity right now,” denying them access to the platform.

Others received “Bad Gateway,” sign-in problems, “something seems to have gone wrong,” “there was an error generating a response,” to “error saving chats” messages.

Anonymous Sudan DDoS attack caused ChatGPT outages

While OpenAI never attributed the DDoS attack to any cyber gang, a suspected Russian hacktivist group called Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility.

The group shared screenshots on its Telegram channel celebrating the successful DDoS attack. Anonymous Sudan said it targeted OpenAI for being an American company, allegedly cooperating with Israel, and for “biasness” towards Palestinians.

Founded in January 2023, Anonymous Sudan is a politically and religiously motivated DDoS group that threatens to attack Sudan’s enemies. However, security experts have linked the group to Russia, mirroring Killnet’s activities.

Tracked as Storm-1359, the group recently disrupted Microsoft services Outlook, Azure, and OneDrive, using Layer 7 DDoS attacks.

However, OpenAI has not provided any technical evidence attributing the ChatGPT DDoS attack to Anonymous Sudan or any hacking group.

Sometimes, cybercriminals falsely claim responsibility to exaggerate their capabilities and impress sympathizers or potential accomplices.

Wrongful attribution?

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman initially attributed ChatGPT outages to increased usage of custom GPT features introduced at the first Developer Conference in Francisco, California, on Monday, November 6, 2023.

“usage of our new features from devday is far outpacing our expectations. we were planning to go live with GPTs for all subscribers Monday but still haven’t been able to. we are hoping to soon. there will likely be service instability in the short term due to load. sorry :/” Altman tweeted.

Nevertheless, OpenAI has resolved API and ChatGPT outages, although “degraded performance” issues persist.

Despite periodic attacks, ChatGPT and the API have maintained an impressive record of 99.65% and 99.76% uptime, respectively, according to the OpenAI status page.

Generative AI chatbots targeted

ChatGPT has reached the 100 million active users milestone, with 90% of the Fortune 500 companies and over 2 million software developers utilizing the bot.

Subsequently, ChatGPT outages could significantly impact professionals who depend on the AI chatbot for content creation, data analysis, and code debugging.

Callie Guenther, Senior Manager of Cyber Threat Research at Critical Start, warned that ChatGPT outages could negatively impact productivity.

“Productivity may also be impacted, given the role of AI in streamlining coding processes. Developers might find themselves spending more time on tasks typically accelerated by AI, such as generating code snippets or refining algorithms,” noted Guenther.

Warning that OpenAI downtime could impact products with integrated ChatGPT services, Guenther advised organizations to take “a review of their current dependencies” and perhaps explore alternatives.

“Security tools that utilize the ChatGPT API for their functionality are impacted,” noted Dean Webb, Cybersecurity Solutions Engineer at Merlin Cyber. “A service outage for ChatGPT is an outage for all tools that invoke its API for AI functionality.”

ChatGPT is an attractive target for cybercriminals because of its large user base, dependence by organizations, and potential for leaking sensitive information.

However, ChatGPT is hardly the only chatbot to suffer a DDoS attack. ChatGPT’s alternative, Claude.ai, also experienced outages from a suspected DDoS attack. The AI chatbot displayed a message stating, “Due to unexpected capacity constraints, Claude is unable to respond to messages.”

Google’s AI chatbot Bard also experienced accessibility issues coinciding with ChatGPT outages. Jack Krawczyk, Product Director at Google, apologized to users who had experienced “some hiccups earlier,” adding that everything was resolved.

Meanwhile, OpenAI found no evidence that the attack compromised user data. Companies have repeatedly warned employees against providing sensitive information that could inadvertently leak to other users or be compromised during a cyber attack.