The Coming Swarm’ argues that distributed denial of service attacks are a legitimate form of protest.

Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

A basic premise of a democratic society gives its citizens rights to participate in debate and effect change by taking to the streets to demonstrate. In the U.S., this is enshrined in the Bill of Rights under the First Amendment.

But what happens when we all effectively live, work, shop, date, bank and get into political debates online? Because online, as Molly Sauter points out in her book The Coming Swarm, there are no streets on which to march. “Because of the densely intertwined nature of property and speech in the online space, unwelcome acts of collective protest become also acts of trespass.”

Sauter argues that distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a legitimate form of protest. Or at least one that needs to be examined in a larger context of lawful activism, rather than hastily and disastrously criminalized under the Patriot Act.

Sauter is currently doing her Ph.D. at McGill University in Montreal after completing her Masters at MIT. Prior to attending MIT she worked as a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. So she’s been thinking about civil disobedience and digital culture for a while, although she admitting during a recent phone interview that “adapting and re-writing a Masters thesis into a book during the first year of doctorate study is not recommended.”

As Sauter examines in The Coming Swarm, DDoS campaigns are not new. In fact they’ve been used for almost 20 years in support of various political movements from pro-Zapatista mobilization to immigration policy in Germany and, most notably, at 2010 G20 in Toronto.

“Guiding this work is the overarching question of how civil disobedience and disruptive activism can be practiced in the current online space,” she told PCMag. “Actions that take place in the online sphere can only ever infringe on privately held property. The architecture of the network does not, as of yet, support spaces held in common.”

The book also delves into extensive technical discussion on the evolution of simple denial-of-service attacks, where a single computer and Internet connection breaches a firewall, floods a server with packets, and overloads the system so that it malfunctions and shuts down.

According to Sauter, it was the switch to distributed denial-of-service attacks that really got the authorities’ attention. Mainly because the distributed nature of attack, using zombie machines to hide the original source of the activists’ IP addresses and often effect malware, made detection almost impossible. It was then that the nature of digital debate was re-framed as a criminal act rather than civil disobedience.

The Coming Swarm is thoroughly thought-provoking and meticulously researched (as one might expect from a peer-reviewed publication under the Bloomsbury Academic imprint). It will be an important contribution as more enlightened public policy makers try to understand digital culture rather than just contain it.

The Coming Swarm arrives Oct. 23 and can be purchased as an e-book on Bloomsbury.com.

Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2469400,00.asp

After successful in launching reflection and amplification Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks by abusing various protocols such as DNS, NTP and SMTP, hackers are now abusing Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP) – part of the UPnP protocol standard – to target home and office devices, researchers warned.
SSDP is a network protocol based on the Internet Protocol Suite that comes enabled on millions of networked devices, such as computers, printers, Internet gateways, Router / Wi-Fi access points, mobile devices, webcams, smart TVs and gaming consoles, to discover each other and automatically establish working configurations that enable data sharing, media streaming, media playback control and other services.
FLAW IN UPnP USED IN AMPLIFICATION DDoS ATTACK
Prolexic Security Engineering & Response Team (PLXsert) at Akamai Technologies have issued a warning that the devices use in residential or small office environments are being co-opted into reflection and amplification distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks since July that abuse communications protocols enabled on UPnP devices.

The rise of reflection attacks involving UPnP devices in an example of how fluid and dynamic the DDoS crime ecosystem can be in identifying, developing and incorporating new resources and attack vectors into its arsenal,” the advisory states. “Further development and refinement of attack payloads and tools is likely in the near future.

The weakness in the Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP) standard could allow an attacker to compromise millions of its consumer and business devices, which could be conscripted by them to launch an effective DDoS attack on a target.
Attackers have found that Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) – protocol used to exchange sensitive information in a decentralized, distributed environment – requests “can be crafted to elicit a response that reflects and amplifies a packet, which can be redirected towards a target.”
This UPnP attack is useful for both reflection attacks, given the number of vulnerable devices, and amplification as researchers estimate that it can magnify attack traffic by a factor of 30, according to the advisory.
OVER 4.1 MILLIONS DEVICES VULNERABLE
According to the security researchers, about 38 percent of the 11 million Internet-facing UPnP devices, i.e. over 4.1 million devices, in use are potentially vulnerable to being used in this type of reflection DDoS attack.

The number of UPnP devices that will behave as open reflectors is vast, and many of them are home-based Internet-enabled devices that are difficult to patch,” said Akamai security business unit senior vice president and general manager Stuart Scholly. “Action from firmware, application and hardware vendors must occur in order to mitigate and manage this threat.”

MAJOR TARGETED COUNTRIES 
South Korea has the largest number of vulnerable devices, followed by the United States, Canada, and China, according to the advisory.
This isn’t the first time when a security flaw in UPnP has allowed attackers to target home and business devices, back in January 2013, a flaw in UPnP exposed more than 50 millions computers, printers and storage drives to attack by hackers remotely.
Source: http://thehackernews.com/2014/10/reflection-ddos-attacks-using-millions_16.html

 

By Martin Brown, Chief Security Futures Architect, BT Global Services
For retailers, e-commerce has not only become a convenient way for customers to research items, browse new inventory and ultimately purchase goods, but it has also turned into a large revenue generator. According to Forrester, e-commerce sales are expected to rise from $231 billion to $262 billion in the U.S. this year, a 13 percent increase. This robust growth has been attributed to more consumers using their smartphones and tablets to complete transactions.

Eventually, revenue from e-commerce is expected to surpass that of brick-and-mortar locations, so it is crucial that retailers are investing in online platforms early, as well as ensuring that their IT systems can combat any issues they might encounter.

Figuring out which issues to take seriously can be an issue in the ever-changing landscape of digital technology. The Target credit card breach or eBay website hack can make retailers want to quiver in fear, but the threats and seriousness of these issues are not something to be discounted. An issue with a mobile application or website could paralyze a business and can quickly cost a retailer thousands or even millions of dollars. One of the known threats to retailers that could ultimately cause a significant disruption to e-commerce retailers is a DoS or DDoS attack.

What is a Dos / DDoS attack?
At a fundamental level a denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) or distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users.

Although the means to carry out, motives for, and targets of a DDos or DoS attack may vary, it generally consists of the efforts of one or more people to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend connectivity to the Internet.

Perpetrators of these attacks typically target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers, such as banks, retail or card payment gateways. The term is generally used in reference to computer networks but is not limited to this field.

While firewalls and IPS/IDS (intrusion prevention and detection) services can offer a certain amount of protection if configured appropriately, once the internet pipe between the ISP (Internet Service Provider) and customer is overloaded the net effect is that the DoS/DDoS is successful as not only is the target of the attack affected but any other services routed down the same link are also impacted.

How big is the problem?
DDoS has become the weapon of choice for many cyber attackers but also serves as a useful distraction to divert scarce security engineering resources from other backdoor attacks undertaken concurrently with the DDoS.
The largest recorded attack in 2014 so far, as reported by Arbor Networks, was 325 Gigabits/second (Gbps) directed at a user in France.

In February 2014 BT, working together with Arbor, its technology partner, successfully mitigated an attack of 54 Gbps against a large UK retail organization. This attack, had it been successful, could have affected daily online business of around $8 million and seriously impacted brand reputation.  Fortunately this customer already was  a subscriber to the BT DDoS mitigation service and normal service was restored within 10 minutes of the attack starting.

image00

BPS = bits per second,   PPS = packets per second

Source:  Arbor Networks

As can be seen from the table above the scale of DDoS attacks is continuing to grow and that trend is predicted to continue over the next five years.

When the target of a DDoS attack is a revenue-generating website, the result is twofold. First, the company may need to manage brand damage and customer dissatisfaction, which have a less defined cost associated with them. Second is a more recognizable loss of revenue driven either by online customer activity being significantly reduced or lost due to being unable to interact with the website for orders or changes.

How can technology help?
There are several companies in the marketplace working to help retailers and other businesses combat DDoS/DoS attacks. For example, some services provide an automated system which, when specific triggers are met, prevents downstream links to customer sites being saturated with traffic therefore not only the target has been protected but the other services using the connection are also protected.

Services that provide mitigation at the core of the network can combat high volume attacks more efficiently and effectively. Perimeter mitigations effectively protect the infrastructure from malicious traffic targeted at networks or hosts, which can result in significant volumes of malicious traffic being discarded before it can be of any harm.

Some service providers that own their own network typically are able to surgically reroute traffic right down to the individual IP address and pass it through a DDoS mitigation or scrubbing center before dropping the cleansed traffic into the target’s local network. This means that the right traffic can get through to the customer’s network such as order placements, while the malicious traffic is discarded.

How can retailers mitigate risk?
The threat of DoS and DDoS attacks is real and not slowing down anytime soon. The potential to be affected by these types of attacks is a very present and harsh reality for businesses everywhere. The key to mitigating this risk is preparation – knowing who your allies are in your time of need. This is especially true for retailers. Attacks happen quickly and the results can be catastrophic.

With the continued growth and importance of e-commerce, retailers need to be taking appropriate precautions to ensure that their customers, bottom lines and reputations do not suffer in the event of an attack.

Martin Brown is the chief security futures architect for BT Global Services. Using his 20 years of security industry experience, he is responsible for the strategic determination, definition and down-streaming of new and innovative security products and services for BT, as well as managing relationships with BT security partners. 

Source: http://apparel.edgl.com/case-studies/The-Evolution-of-DDoS–Risk-Mitigation-for-Retailers95880?googleid=95880

Hacking group Anonymous plans to launch DDoS attacks.

Online activist group Anonymous has threatened to leak thousands of Chinese Government email addresses and blackout Chinese and Hong Kong Government websites through DDoS attacks, to show its solidarity with the Umbrella Movement.

The group named Operation Hong Kong is planning to launch DDoS attacks on the network by bombarding it with traffic which could result in network crash.

Reuters reported Anonymous as saying in a statement: “Here’s your heads up, prepare for us, try to stop it, the only success you will have will be taking all your sites offline.

“China, you cannot stop us. You should have expected us before abusing your power against the citizens of Hong Kong.”

The online protestors are planning to attack websites belonging to the Ministry of Defense, China’s Ministry of Public Security, Hong Kong police and Ministry of Justice.

Hong Kong Liaison Office reported that its website had already been attacked twice in a week, when visitors were blocked from entering the site, but the website resumed its activity shortly after the outrage.

In a statement given to Reuters China’s Defense Ministry said: “We have taken necessary steps to protect the safe operation of the Defense Ministry website.”

People in Hong Kong have been protesting the Chinese Government’s decision to put restrictions through electoral reforms.

Source: http://www.cbronline.com/news/security/anonymous-plans-attacks-on-chinese-state-4402496

When you start with the premise that capitalism is illegitimate it’s easy to dismiss other people’s property rights.

To some people, a political mission matters more than anything, including your rights. Such people (the Bolsheviks come to mind) have caused a great deal of damage and suffering throughout history, especially in the last 100 years or so. Now they’re taking their mission online. You better not get in their way.

Molly Sauter, a doctoral student at McGill University and a research affiliate at the Berkman Center at Harvard (“exploring cyberspace, sharing its study & pioneering its development”), has a paper calling the use of DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks a legitimate form of activism and protest. This can’t go unchallenged.

Sauter notes the severe penalties for DDOS attacks under “…Title 18, Section 1030 (a)(5) of the US Code, otherwise known as the CFAA” (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act). This section is short enough that I may as well quote it here verbatim:

(5)(A) [Whoever] knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer;
(B) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage; or
(C) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage and loss.

There are other problems with the CFAA with respect to some legitimate security research and whether it technically falls afoul of the act, but that’s not the issue here.

Sauter goes on in some detail with the penalties under Federal law for violating this act and, no argument here, they are extreme and excessive. You can easily end up with many years in prison. This is, in fact, a problem generally true of Federal law, the number of crimes under which has grown insanely in the last 30 or so years, with the penalties growing proportionately. For an informed and intelligent rant on the problem I recommend Three Felonies a Day by Harvey Silverglate. Back to hacktivist DDOS attacks.

She cites cases of DDOS attacks committed against Koch Industries, Paypal, the Church of Scientology and Lufthansa Airlines, some of these by the hacktivists who call themselves Anonymous. In the US cases of the attacks against Koch, Paypal and the Church, the attackers received prison time and large fines and restitution payments. In the Lufthansa case, in a German court, the attacker was sentenced to pay a fine or serve 90 days in jail; that sentence was overturned on appeal. The court ruled that “…the online demonstration did not constitute a show of force but was intended to influence public opinion.”

This is the sort of progressive opinion, dismissive of property rights, that Sauter regrets is not happening here in the US. She notes, and this makes sense to me, that the draconian penalties in the CFAA induce guilty pleas from defendants, preventing the opportunity for a Lufthansa-like precedent.

This is part and parcel of the same outrageous growth of Federal criminal law I mentioned earlier; you’ll find the same incentive to plead guilty, even if you’re just flat-out innocent, all over the US Code. I would join Sauter in calling for some sanity in the sentencing in the CFAA, but I part ways with her argument that political motives are a mitigating, even excusing factor.

Sauter’s logic rises from a foundation of anti-capitalism:

…it would appear that the online space is being or has already been abdicated to a capitalist-commercial governance structure, which happily merges the interests of corporate capitalism with those of the post-9/11 security state while eliding democratic values of political participation and protest, all in the name of ‘stability.’

Once you determine that capitalism is illegitimate, respect for other people’s property rights is no longer a problem. Fortunately, the law protects people against the likes of Anonymous and other anti-capitalist heroes of the far left.

I would not have known or cared about Sauter’s article had it not been for a favorable link to it by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is a Fellow at the Berkman Center.

Progressives and other leftists who think DDOS, i.e. impeding the business of a person or entity with whom you disagree in order to make a political point, should consider the shoe on the other foot. If I disagree with Schneier’s positions is it cool for me to crash his web site or those of other organizations with which he is affiliated, such as the Berkman Center, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and BT (formerly British Telecom)? I could apply the same principle to anti-abortion protesters impeding access to a clinic. I’m disappointed with Schneier for implying with his link that it’s legitimate to engage in DDOS attacks for political purposes.

It’s worth repeating that Sauter has a point about the CFAA, particularly with respect to the sentences. It does need to be reformed — along with a large chunk of other Federal law. The point of these laws is supposed to be to protect people against the offenses of others, not to protect the offender.

Source: http://www.zdnet.com/researcher-makes-the-case-for-ddos-attacks-7000034560/