Who Is Trying To Disrupt The Internet?

A prolonged Internet outage affecting major sites like Twitter, Netflix, Spotify and The New York Times recently has commentators concerned that this is was a practice run for future, more widespread disruption of the internet.

The distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) targeted the dynamic domain name service provider Dyn and came in three waves during the day.

Dyn provides internet address translation through DNS servers to take a name like www.nytimes.com and translate it into an address like 170.149.159.130. Denial of service attacks use a variety of techniques to keep the DNS servers busy. The attacks work by flooding DNS servers with millions of requests that seem legitimate but are for fake addresses, causing the DNS server to get overloaded. Real DNS requests from real users can’t get through and so it appears that the site they are trying to get to, like www.netflix.com is down.

DNS attacks operate in a number of different ways but those that affected the Dyn servers were using a range of techniques that included sending requests for sites that had random characters attached to the start of a valid domain e.g. abcd123.nytimes.com. Because these addresses are essentially valid, the DNS server tries to look the up the address but gets tied up because of the sheer volume of requests. The attacks are difficult to guard against because the requests are essentially valid.

The sheer volume of requests were being sent in part by the Mirai botnet of Internet of Things devices, mostly internet connected cameras and digital video recorders. This botnet has been in a previous attack this month on the website of a security reporter Brian Krebs.

These types of attacks have been occurring more frequently and because they involve pieces of internet infrastructure, have a more widespread impact. Last month, security analyst Bruce Schneier wrote that he believed that state actors were increasingly probing for weaknesses in the basic infrastructure of the internet in order to be able to mount large-scale devastating attacks. Because of the increase in number and intensity of DDoS type attacks in recent years, security analysts have theorised that some of the attacks are masking probing for vulnerabilities.

A particular fear is that a DDoS attack could prevent people from voting online during the US election on November 8th. Overseas military and citizens are allowed to vote online in several US states and everyone in Alaska can vote online. Russia has already been implicated in the hack of Democratic National Committee emails and organizing their release through WikiLeaks. There is concern that the Russians will try and discredit the election process in whatever way they can and disrupting it through a DDoS attack on the day would be one way of achieving this.

The risk of this actually effecting the vote on the day has been dismissed however as the window for voting online in some of these situations is weeks before the election rather than on the day. When Alabama trialed online electronic voting during the primaries, their site was in fact attacked, but although it slowed down the site, it didn’t prevent anyone from voting.

There is also the possibility that this attack was actually just hackers going after a particular site that happened to be using the Dyn service. The source code for the Mirai botnet was released on October 1st and since that time, other hackers have been using the code to expand the number of bots involved and create their own botnets. DDoS attacks may actually just be hackers testing out the power of their creations.

The internet remains incredibly vulnerable to attacks on its infrastructure and right now, there are few ways of avoiding them. Because Internet of Things devices like cameras, digital video recorders, and a whole range of other equipment are being used as vehicles to launch DDoS attacks, making sure that the devices are secure would be a priority. However, manufacturers are creating these devices in a way that doesn’t allow for automated, un-monitored updates which is what is really required for security patches to be applied when they are discovered. Governments could potentially legislate that they should take all efforts to ensure their devices are secure before allowing the public to connect them to the internet, but this would need all countries of the world to do this.

It does bring into question the ability of governments to put even more of its interface with the public online since as soon as it does, it becomes a potential target for malicious actors. Governments in particular need to become more adept at dealing with this possibility, especially after the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrated that it was unable to run an online census collection successfully in the face of relatively minor DDoS attacks.

Science2.0

« China’s Plan To Organise Society Using Big Data
Strategies For A Cyber Security Culture (£) »

Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

Practice Labs

Practice Labs

Practice Labs is an IT competency hub, where live-lab environments give access to real equipment for hands-on practice of essential cybersecurity skills.

Authentic8

Authentic8

Authentic8 transforms how organizations secure and control the use of the web with Silo, its patented cloud browser.

Cylance Smart Antivirus

Cylance Smart Antivirus

An antivirus that works smarter, not harder, from BlackBerry. Lightweight, non-intrusive protection powered by artificial intelligence. BUY NOW - LIMITED DISCOUNT OFFER.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO is the market leader in HPE Non-Stop Security, Risk Management and Compliance.

Jooble

Jooble

Jooble is a job search aggregator operating in 71 countries worldwide. We simplify the job search process by displaying active job ads from major job boards and career sites across the internet.

CSI Consulting Services

CSI Consulting Services

Get Advice From The Experts: * Training * Penetration Testing * Data Governance * GDPR Compliance. Connecting you to the best in the business.

ZenGRC

ZenGRC

ZenGRC - the first, easy-to-use, enterprise-grade information security solution for compliance and risk management - offers businesses efficient control tracking, testing, and enforcement.

CYRIN

CYRIN

CYRIN® Cyber Range. Real Tools, Real Attacks, Real Scenarios. See why leading educational institutions and companies in the U.S. have begun to adopt the CYRIN® system.

Cyber Security Supplier Directory

Cyber Security Supplier Directory

Free Access: Cyber Security Supplier Directory listing 5,000+ specialist service providers.

DataGuidance

DataGuidance

DataGuidance is a platform used by privacy professionals to monitor regulatory developments, mitigate risk and achieve global compliance.

Messageware

Messageware

Messageware is a world leader in Microsoft Exchange security.

Global Station for Big Data & Cybersecurity (GSB)

Global Station for Big Data & Cybersecurity (GSB)

GSB is an interdisciplinary research hub to cover big data, information networks, and cybersecurity.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

ORNL conducts basic and applied research and development in key areas of science for energy, advanced materials, supercomputing and national security including cybersecurity.

Sysorex Government Services

Sysorex Government Services

Sysorex Government Services helps customers meet their strategic missions by providing secure, optimized IT solutions that allow them to perform more efficiently and effectively.

LEADS

LEADS

LEADS is considered as a leading ICT Solution Provider and an IT partner of choice in Bangladesh.

Inavate Consulting

Inavate Consulting

Inavate Consulting are experts in defining and implementing information assurance solutions and governance frameworks. Our ISO27001 consultants are the most experienced in the industry.

Netsurion

Netsurion

Netsurion powers secure and agile networks for highly distributed and small-to-medium enterprises and the IT providers that serve them.