The “BGP experiment” a small European ISP performed in February 2009 has generated quite a splash: Cisco has discovered a new BGP bug that can be triggered only if you have a long enough AS-path and do outbound AS-path prepending (and a few of us learned more BGP intricacies we never wanted to know), lots of people have (hopefully) discovered the importance of the bgp maxas-limit configuration command and at least some ISPs have implemented inbound prepending filters that I wrote about almost a year ago. However, most of us thought that the original problem arose due to inexperienced operators of a leaf AS.
Mikael Abrahamsson was the first to notice that the number of prepends matches the low-order 8 bits of the offending AS number. Further contributors to NANOG mailing list confirmed that two autonomous systems with very long prepends are using BGP routers from Mikrotik. You configure those boxes with commands that have syntax deceptively close to Cisco's, but expect the number of AS numbers to prepend, not the AS-path. Obviously no range checking is done on the configuration parameter and the high-order 8 bits are ignored.
So it looks like the incident started with a box that accepts invalid configuration parameter used in an AS with very high value in low-order 8 bits (quite improbable, but obviously not impossible). Numerous ISPs that did not limit the BGP updates they were propagating and an IOS bug did the rest.