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Beware of DDoS-for-Hire
Distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have become a public menace.
DDoS was once a tool used by hactivists to further their social or political ends. In recent years, DDoS has become a toll for purely financial gain and for utter destruction. DDoS-for-hire services, also known as stressers or booters, have grown in recent years.
One DDoS-for-hire organization offers its DDoS service for a monthly fee of $7. A simple online search using the keyword “stressers” or “booters” will yield a number of organizations offering DDoS services for a fee. One DDoS mobile app even showed up on Google Play but this one was immediately pulled out.
Many of these DDoS-for-hire services openly advertise their services on the guise of offering a legitimate DDoS service. The reality is that it’s not illegal to conduct a DDoS attack or stress test on a website, for instance, to test the capacity of the site to receive high volume of traffic or to test how to deflect unwanted volume of traffic. The question of legitimacy comes on whether or not the owner of the website authorizes the stress test.
According to the FBI, the hiring of stresser or booter service to carry out a DDoS attack to take down a website is punishable under the US law called “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” and this may result in any one or a combination of the following: seizure of computers and other electronic devices, arrest and criminal prosecution, significant prison sentence, penalty or fine.
“Booter and stresser services are a form of DDoS-for-hire – advertised in forum communications and available on Dark Web marketplaces – offering malicious actors the ability to anonymously attack any Internet-connected target,” the FBI said. “These services are obtained through a monetary transaction, usually in the form of online payment services and virtual currency.”
What Can a DDoS-for-Hire Service Actually Do?
The Gammel case is the first Minnesota case to address the DDoS-for-hire cybercrime. In April of this year, in a criminal complaint filed before the US District Court of Minnesota, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleged that Gammel, a former employee of Washburn Computer Group – a Minnesota-based company – paid several DDoS-for-hire services to bring down 3 websites of Washburn in a more than one-year-long DDoS campaign.
According to the FBI, the first 2 websites of Washburn were knocked down several times as a result of the DDoS attacks paid by Gammel. The FBI also alleged that the 3rd website – the one that replaced the 2 other sites of Washburn – was knocked down several times as well a result of the DDoS orchestrated by Gammel. Washburn claimed that the DDoS attacks resulted in a minimum of $15,000 in loss.
In the criminal complaint, the FBI defined DDoS attack as "an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, such as by temporarily or indefinitely interrupting or suspending services of a host connected to the Internet, usually by shutting down a website or websites connected to target of the DDoS attack.”
The DDoS attacks against Dyn – a domain name service (DNS) provider to which many websites rely on – was considered as one of the largest. Because of the DDoS attacks against Dyn, 80 widely used websites like Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix were rendered temporarily inaccessible to the public.
“The [Dyn] attack used a booter service and was attributed to infected Internet of Things (IoT) devices like routers, digital video recorders, and Webcams/security cameras to execute the DDoS attack,” the FBI said.
According to the FBI source, the DNS provider lost approximately 8% of its customers following the DDoS attacks.
How a DDoS Attack Works?
In the Dyn case, the company itself confirmed that the Mirai botnet was the primary source of DDoS attacks although it won't comment about the motivation or the identity of the attackers.
According to Dyn, on October 21, 2016, it observed a high volume of traffic on 2 occasions in its Managed DNS platform in the Asia Pacific, South America, Eastern Europe and US-West regions. The company said that the 2 major DDoS attacks on its Managed DNS platform involved 100,000 compromised IoT devices originating from different parts of the globe that were infected by the Mirai botnet.
The Mirai botnet works by infecting IoT devices with weak security – those that use default usernames and passwords – and turned them into bots or robots that can be ordered around, in this case, to conduct DDoS attacks.
The effects of malicious and unauthorized DDoS attacks are immediate. They render targeted websites inaccessible or slow. As experienced by Washburn and Dyn, DDoS attacks proved to be costly and can cause businesses to lose customers.
Availability of DDoS Tools
The danger of DDoS attacks is the tools for this cybermenace aren’t just available from the DDoS-for-hire services themselves but from public sources. For instance, one can conduct a DDoS attack on his or her own using the Mirai botnet as the source code of this was made available in September of this year to the public by someone who calls himself or herself “Anna-senpai”.
DDoS tools are also evolving. Just days after the online publication of the Mirai source code, a new DDoS tool called “Reaper” emerged. This DDoS tool hasn’t attacked yet as it’s still in the process of infecting vulnerable IoT devices. The stark difference between the 2 DDoS tools is that while the Mirai infected 100,000 IoT devices, the Reaper has infected over half a million IoT devices. This means that this new botnet is much more powerful.
While it’s cheap to hire malicious cyberactors to conduct DDoS attacks, it’s equally affordable to hire professionals to prevent DDoS attacks. Contact us today if your company is currently burdened by this cybermenace or if your organization simply wants to be proactive in stopping DDoS attacks.
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP