Researchers at network security vendor Arbor Networks are warning of an increasingly strengthening tool being used by cybercriminals to conduct powerful distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS).

The tool, called MP-DDoser or IP-Killer, was first detected in December 2011 and, according to Jeff Edwards, a research analyst at Chemlsford, Mass.-based Arbor Networks Inc., the tool’s authors are making progress in eliminating flaws and adding improvements.   The active development is boosting the tool’s attack capabilities and advancing its encryption algorithm to protect its botnet communications mechanism. Arbor released a report analyzing MP-DDoser’s (.pdf) capabilities and improvements.

“The key management is quite good, and the buggy DDoS attacks are not only fixed, but now include at least one technique … that may be considered reasonably cutting edge,” wrote Edwards, a member of Arbor’s security engineering and response team, in a blog entry Thursday.

Edwards said the “Apache Killer” technique, which can be deployed by the tool, is designed to flood requests to Apache Web servers, overwhelming the memory and ultimately causing it to crash. The technique is considered low-bandwidth, making it difficult to filter out the bad requests. A less successful form of the attack was used by a previous botnet, Edwards said, but the MP-DDoser authors appear to have incorporated it with some improvements.

“A review of the [IP-Killer] bot’s assembly code indicates that it does indeed appear to be a fully functional, working implementation of the Apache Killer attack,” Edwards wrote. “It is therefore one of the more effective low-bandwidth, ‘asymmetrical’ HTTP attacks at the moment.”

Asymmetric DDoS attacks typically use less-powerful packets to consume resources or alter network components, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Attacks are meant to overwhelm the CPU and system memory of a network device, according to US-CERT.

The steady increase and easily obtainable automated DDoS attack tools have put the attack technique in the hands of less-savvy cybercriminals. Arbor Networks’ Worldwide Infrastructure Report 2012 detailed a steady increase in powerful attacks over the last five years. The report, which surveyed 114 service providers, found that lower-bandwidth sophisticated attacks like MP-DDoser are becoming alarming.

MP-DDoser, IP-Killer botnet communications improvements
The MP-DDoser botnet does not spread spam or malware, making it more effective at conducting DDoS campaigns, according to Edwards.

The authors of MP-DDoser are also employing encryption and key management as part of network communications, Edwards said. Encrypting communications is becoming more common in malware to make it more difficult for investigators to trace the transmissions between the bot and the command-and-control server. Edwards called the MP-DDoser author’s use of encryption a “home brew” algorithm, making decryption even more difficult for researchers.

“All in all, MP-DDoser uses some of the better key management we have seen. But of course, at the end of the day, every bot has to contain – or be able to generate – its own key string in order to communicate with its C&C, so no matter how many layers of encryption our adversary piles on, they can always be peeled off one by one,” Edwards wrote.

Source: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/2240153127/Arbor-Networks-warns-of-IP-Killer-MP-DDoser-DDoS-tool

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters’ website went out of service on election night because a firewall recognized an attempt to attack the site, officials said today, adding that an investigation was being conducted.

Sdvote.com went down soon after initial results were posted after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and the site remained inoperative for about two hours. Access to the site was also spotty after midnight.

Residents and local politicos use the site to track results. The county also uses its information technology to send a direct feed of results to news media, but that feed was not interrupted.

According to a county statement, sdvote.com began receiving well over 1 million hits per minute from a single Internet protocol address around 8:15 p.m., so a firewall that recognized suspicious activity shut down outside access to county websites.

Investigators said they believe the “denial of service” attack was launched against the site to prevent legitimate users from obtaining information.

It was unknown if the attack was meant to disrupt the election itself, according to the county.

IT vendor Hewlett Packard ruled out any hardware or software issues, and there was plenty of capacity for the number of users who tried to use sdvote.com, according to the county.

County officials said they were working with a security team and Hewlett Packard to find who or what was responsible for the attack, and reviewing ways to keep such an event from taking down the site in the future.

Source: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jun/07/county-says-its-voting-results-website-was-hacked-/

Last year there was an odd incident in South Korea, where a widely distributed computer game appeared to be infected with malware (software that secretly uses the PC it is on for criminal activity, including stealing valuable data from the PC it is on). What caught the attention of South Korean military intelligence was the fact that the malware was hidden in every copy of this game and, at one point, many of the 100,000 infected PCs tried to shut down the air traffic control system at a major South Korean airport.

Further investigation revealed that the airport attack was part of a growing Cyber War campaign by North Korea against government and military web sites in South Korea. One of the most disruptive North Korean Cyber War weapons was DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. These are carried out by first using a computer virus (often delivered as an email attachment or, in this case, via a game), that installs a secret a Trojan horse type program, that allows someone else to take over that computer remotely, and turn it into a “zombie” for spamming, stealing, monitoring or DDOS attacks to shut down another site. There are millions of zombie PCs out there, and these can be rented, either form spamming or lunching DDOS attacks. Anyone with about $100,000 in cash, including North Korea, could carry out attacks. You can equip a web site to resist, or even brush off, a DDOS attack, and some of those attacked ware prepared. But others were not. The South Korea airport was disrupted for several hours.

Last year was the third time since 2009 that someone, apparently North Korea, has launched DDOS attacks, and attempted to hack into South Korean networks. But part of this latest DDOS effort was carried out by a North Korean botnet of zombie PCs obtained by selling the malware infected games. Further investigation found that the South Korean creator of the games had been financed by North Korea agents, who provided the malware payload. These games were made available for sale on South Korean web sites. Police are still inspecting the malware, which may have been stealing data from infected PCs, in addition to be part of a botnet of PCs used for DDOS attacks.

Source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20120607.aspx

Using Service Providers to Manage DDoS Threats

As you’ve no doubt seen in recent years, hactivists (hackers who attack for a cause) such as Anonymous and LulzSec are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks on corporate ­America. Using the Internet as a venue, they are levying attacks using hundreds or thousands of zombie computers to overwhelm victims’ bandwidth and servers. These distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks can last for minutes or days, while leaving your employees and ­customers without access to online resources.

Many options are available for protecting against, and mitigating the effects of, a DDoS attack. However, with the increasing use of third-party service providers, your organization must consider whether and how these providers can fit into a comprehensive and strategic DDoS protection plan. The good news is that these providers likely have far more resources and know-how than your own organization when it comes to fighting against DDoS attacks. The trick will be to proactively engage with providers to ensure that the full force of these ­resources will be effectively leveraged for your own organization’s needs.

In this report, we examine how you can combine your protections with those of third-party service providers to protect against and/or withstand DDoS attacks. One of the most ­important takeaways is that you must prepare in advance. You cannot wait until after the DDoS hits to implement these technologies or coordinate protection with your service providers.

Source and to download this report: http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/21/8817/security/strategy-using-service-providers-to-manage-ddos-threats.html

By Brian Bloom, ComputerWorld Canada

May 29, 2012, 8:53 PM — Depending on how unscrupulous your business practices are, a denial-of-service attack can give you a competitive advantage. From keeping competitors offline to engaging in outright extortion, there are organizations (some more obviously criminal than others) now using DDoS attacks to make big money.

For those on the receiving end, DDoS attacks are expensive. If you want to avoid losing a lot of money, it pays to be insured. And it’s better to get your protection from the good guys.

Corero Network Security is a company that fits into a small but growing sector of the information security community. It looks at ways to combat the increasingly sophisticated — and often untraceable — denial-of-service attacks targeting organizations of all kinds. The company says the bulk of the attacks today are not the spectacular, ideology-driven kinds that grab headlines.

“Most of the attacks, we know, involve things like unfair competition,” says Neil Roiter, research director of Corero Network Security Inc. “In other words, another company in your own market, your own sector, hitting you to knock you offline, to chase away customers, to lure customers to their own site.”

Roiter adds that when Corero surveyed companies in the U.S. subjected to DDoS attack, more than half believed they had been targeted by the competition. Then there are other attacks: ones that are essentially information age protection rackets.

“It’s like the old protection racket where guys come into your shop, your store, like in the movies and they say, ‘You have a nice place here. It would be a shame if something bad happened to it. Or happened to you.’

“You’ll get an email or phone call saying, ‘Pay us $50,000 by such and such a time, transfer it to this account, or we’re going to knock your site offline.'”

At first glance, Canada appears to have avoided the scourge of these sorts of “professional” DDoS attacks. David Black, manager of the RCMP technology crime branch’s cyber crime fusion team, says he hasn’t encountered many cases of DDoS extortion in Canada, though the threat is certainly present.

“Any company is vulnerable to this, in a sense,” says Black. “If their business depends on 24/7 network connection, extortion could be a reality.”

He adds that it’s “very rare” to catch a company knocking down a competitor’s site in Canada. But again, he cautions that this doesn’t mean they won’t occur in the future.

“We are at high risk, don’t get me wrong,” Black says. “Just the examples aren’t there.”

But Roiter suggests there may plenty of examples that the police simply don’t know about. Extortion, he says, is a crime that usually goes unreported, making it impossible to know how prevalent it is. While countries do differ in terms of the types of DDoS attacks they experience, certain industries are magnets for these types of crimes, Roiter says. He notes, for example, that Canada has a “healthy online gambling industry.”

“Gambling sites are very popular targets. There’s a lot of that that goes on in online gambling. And usually they’ll pay the ransom. Think of it this way: somebody gives you that call before World Cup match when you know you’re going to be doing hundreds of thousands, maybe a million dollars in business, and they say, ‘pay us $50,000′ or ‘£30,000′ or whatever it is. You’re going to pay.”

Roiter says part of the reason that companies are forced to give into criminals’ demands is not necessarily that they haven’t taken protective measures, but that they haven’t taken the right ones. They may be protected from network-based attacks and aren’t ready for the newer application-level attacks.

“The networking flooding attacks, the SYN flood, the UDP attacks, the ICMP attacks, those sorts of things are becoming less prevalent, and application-layer attacks, which use far less bandwidth and are much harder to detect and mitigate, are becoming dominant.”

To combat such attacks, Corero’s security platform uses analysis to examine whether a protocol is behaving properly and a rate-limiting technique that assigns it either a credit or demerit point. With enough demerits, the system will perceive a threat and immediately block it off.

The company has more than 20 major Canadian clients, including financial and government institutions. Dave Millier, CEO of Toronto-based Sentry Metrics Inc., says his company was the primary reseller for Top Layer Networks Inc., a company Corero acquired in 2011 that was one of the biggest players in the DDoS market.

Millier says in general, Corero’s “claim to fame” in preventing DDoS attacks is their ability to ensure business continuity in the midst of an attack. “They can sustain multi-hundred megabit attacks, while still allowing acceptable performance of the Web services that are running on the systems inside the network itself.”

This is accomplished by placing the Corero boxes outside of the network and firewall to identify and block threats more quickly. “All the data still comes to the Corero box, but it’s intelligent enough to actually in effect drop the connections before they ever get to the devices that are trying to be connected to.”

From the RCMP’s perspective, says Black, one of the best ways to combat DDoS crime in Canada is to seek guidance from the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC). Businesses can also report cyber threat incidents to the Centre. And as they increase, it will play an increasingly important role, he says.

“As this business grows and matures, for advice on how to prevent … (that’s) a great role for CCIRC,” he says.

Source: http://www.itworld.com/security/279089/new-ddos-silent-organized-and-profitable