Honeypot Sting Exposes British Cyber Criminals

Thousands of suspected cyber criminals have been exposed their identities after falling for a honeypot sting run by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA). This activity forms part of Operation Power Off, the coordinated international response targeting criminal DDoS-for-hire infrastructures worldwide.

The operation was part of a global law enforcement operation to clamp down on cyber criminals using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) tactics to target online businesses and users. The operation saw several fake websites created purporting to offer services to cyber criminals.

The NCA said it created several fake DDoS-for-fire websites. “All of the NCA-run sites, which have so far been accessed by around several thousand people, have been created to look like they offer the tools and services that enable cyber criminals to execute these attacks,” the agency said in a statement.  

DDoS-for-hire services are online platforms offering to generate massive garbage HTTP requests towards a website or online service in exchange for money that overwhelm the webserver and take it offline.

During the operation, the NCA said that “several thousand” people accessed the websites and provided details in order to access criminal services. Investigators revealed that details given by prospective customers have been collated and will be used to target criminals. “All of the NCA-run sites, which have so far been accessed by around several thousand people, have been created to look like they offer the tools and services that enable cyber criminals to execute these attacks,” the NCA said.  

DDoS-for-hire services enable users to set up accounts and coordinate DDoS attacks “in a matter of minutes”, according to the NCA.  Such attacks have been highly effective in hacking businesses, critical national infrastructure, and public services.

Collectively, the sites taken down in this operation were used to carry out more than 30 million attacks in recent years. 

Alan Merrett from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit commented “The perceived anonymity and ease of use afforded by these services means that DDoS has become an attractive entry-level crime, allowing individuals with little technical ability to commit cyber offences with eased... Traditional site takedowns and arrests are key components of law enforcement’s response to this threat. However, we have extended our operational capability with this activity, at the same time as undermining trust in the criminal market.” 

The NCA explained that while takedowns and arrests are still a key component of the fight against the threat, their latest tactics extend the impact of their operations to undermine trust in criminal markets and stop DDoS attacks at their source.

The move by the NCA follows a recent crackdown on DDoS-for-hire services globally. In December last year, 48 of the world’s most popular sites were taken offline in a coordinated sting involving the FBI, NCA, and Europol.

NCA:    ITPro:      PCMag:     Bleeping Computer:     Insurance Tines:     

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