Education, freedom and knowledge. These are the pillars for higher learning, but have often been used to describe some open source projects and services that have the potential to be abused by those that are not so innocent. Over the last two years, tools like stressers, Remote Administration Tools (RAT) and ransomware have been published under these pretenses, but do they serve a legitimate purpose? These projects have set off an international debate in the information security community and many wonder if they should be available to the public. Often the justification for these projects is that they are intending to show the potential risks so they can be used to prevent infections or reduce potential damage. With stressers, they claim that the services are to be used to improve and test security products and to understand attack behavior targeting their network. But are they?
The act of leaking or flat-out releasing source code of advanced hacking tools isn’t new. It has happened numerous times, especially with high-profile and advanced malware families, such as Zeus, Citadel, Carberp and SpyEye, which have been responsible for losses measuring in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Once dangerous tools are released to the public, they can be downloaded—and modified and enhanced—by anyone.
Top Attack Trends in 2016
1. First and foremost, we’ve seen our network—and the networks we monitor and protect—experience a tenfold increase in the volume of DDoS attacks. In August 2015, we had a little over 5,000 attacks. In July 2016, it was 55,000 attacks that we could identify. Last year, 70% to 80% of attacks were less than a minute—mostly “white noise” events (a.k.a. “hit-and-run DDoS” or “burst attacks”). This year, we’ve seen attacks falling into the one- to five-minute duration, causing random business disruptions.
Earlier this month my colleague Carl Herberger wrote a blog post regarding how the internet was rolling back our freedoms. I would agree with him. As time moves forward, we are seeing more situations where no one can hide from their government as the internet closes around them. An open internet as we know it may be coming to an end as several countries begin moving towards the idea of a centralized gateway that is controlled by their government.
DDoS attacks can be costly and risky. TierPoint is witnessing a growing trend of using such attacks as the means to another, potentially more devastating, end: stealing sensitive data. Call this new breed of attack the “DDDoS”—deceptive distributed denial-of-service. For two recent examples, look to attacks on Carphone Warehouse and Linode. By bombarding Carphone Warehouse with online traffic, hackers were able to steal the personal and banking details of 2.4 million people. Similarly, cloud provider Linode suffered more than 30 DDoS attacks which appeared to be a ruse to divert attention away from a breach of user accounts.
As devices get more connected, they potentially get smarter and provide richer functionality. The internet of things (IoT) describes a world where just about anything can be connected, from routers, smart thermostats, smart light bulbs, and door locks to intelligent fridges, or even cars.
In recent events, devices with less than desirable security states were taken over by massive botnets consisting of hundreds of thousands of devices that were able to launch an impressive DDoS attack that crippled several online services.
Last week, I was doing research in the DarkNet marketplaces to keep on top of the current trends in the threat landscape. One of the advertisements that struck me as typical was an advertisement for a DDoS botnet for rent. It wasn’t that there was a botnet for rent, as those are everywhere. It was the Listing Details that put together a value proposition for attacking somebody that caught my eye. It says:
“Another advantage of the DDOS attack that you probably don’t know is the loss of Google Organic Ranking. Google really don’t like unreachable URLs or slow website. As soon as they find a decrease of availability or speed, your target will be temporary removed from results and then it will lose his Google ranking. Two weeks after a four days DDOS attack, I have seen a website going from first page to third page.”
Data is the currency of today’s digital economy, the oil of the 21st century. Personal data is considered our economical asset generated by our identities and our behavior and we trade it for higher quality services and products. Online platforms act as intermediaries in a two-sided market collecting data from consumers and selling advertising slots to companies. In exchange for our data being collected, we get what appears to be a free service.
The growth and the market capitalization of social platform providers like Facebook and search engines such as Google demonstrate the value of personal data. Personal data also provides new ways to monetize services as news organizations are finding it difficult to charge ‘real’ money for digital news, but leverage our willingness to pay for a selection of ‘free’ news with our personal data. Every 3 out of 4 persons prefer free registration with selective access over a paid registration with full access.
Ransomware traditionally has used self-replicating and distributing features written into the malware itself to search out, break into, and infect unsecure devices. The benefits of this are clear…fast and wide malware distribution touching thousands of devices.
Enter stage left, Popcorn Time…the first ransomware, which uses the human victim themselves to find and target additional victims to continue distribution of the malware. The idea is straightforward. When your computer becomes infected, you have four options: 1) Pay the ransom and gain back control of your data, 2) Identify personal contacts you will try to infect in order to have your data released, essentially blackmailing the victim, 3) Call law enforcement for help and hope they have the resources to help, or 4) Do nothing. Looking at these, there are really only two options that will help the victim: Pay out, or provide targets.
On January 12th, the Shadow Brokers announced they are ‘going dark’ by leaving a farewell: “So long, farewell peoples. TheShadowBrokers is going dark, making exit. Continuing is being much risk and b*******, not many bitcoins. … Despite theories, it always being about bitcoins for TheShadowBrokers. Free dumps and b******* political talk was being for marketing attention. There being no bitcoins in free dumps and giveaways. You are being disappointed? Nobody is being more disappointed than TheShadowBrokers.”