Perimeter
12/10/2010
05:05 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

The Hazards Of Bot Volunteerism

Not only can you get caught, you can also get 0wned if the bot software is malicious

I've been wondering about the volunteer "bots" who have downloaded the code in order to help flood Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and others during the past few days in protest against companies they say are deterring Internet freedom of information and speech by turning their backs on WikiLeaks and its recently jailed founder, Julian Assange.

Are they mainly high school and college students? If they're employed adults, then do they DDoS during their day jobs? I'm sure there must be some who just want to join in the attack and could care less about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Regardless, I'm curious if they were at all hesitant at first to download the bot tool and fire away.

When you offer up your computer to join a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, you could also be ultimately exposing yourself to an attack. Aside from the obvious legal risks -- which a 16-year-old Dutch boy who participated in the so-called Operation Payback just learned upon his arrest yesterday -- there's always a chance the attack code you download could be rigged to turn on you.

I'm not saying the DDoS code being used in Operation Payback infects those who use it. Security experts who have unraveled it say they don't see any sign of backdoors or other malicious activity in the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) DDoS tool. But this type of code could easily be booby-trapped with a backdoor, rootkit, or code that steals information from the bot's machine. Jose Nazario, senior security researcher at Arbor Networks, says the source code appears to do just what it says it does -- DDoS -- but it does have some capability for abuse. "If these tools have backdoor access, you may wind up with more than you bargained for," Nazario says. "But we haven't seen that happen yet" with this program, he says.

Another risk with volunteer bot duty is exposing your IP address and possibly your identity to the victim organization or law enforcement. If your IP address gets blacklisted, you're toast, especially if you have a static IP address.

Nazario notes the law is clear that it's illegal to disrupt a business' operations or break in, although how that applies to voluntary botnets is a bit unclear. Tal Be'ery, Web research team lead for Imperva's Application Defense Center, argues that because the LOIC tool is clearly for DDoS'ing, volunteer bots can't plead ignorance if they do get caught. "The interface of the LOIC software is very clear about the intention of the tool -- it makes it create a DDoS attack. It's very clear to everyone who's using the tool that they are attacking a website," Be'ery says.

Be'ery has been monitoring the IRC discussions among Operation Payback participants, and he says many of them aren't asking whether it's legal or if they should worry about getting caught. "I'm pretty sure they're not realizing this," he says.

There is both a traditional command-and-control bot type version of the LOIC DDoS tool as well as a version that's a JavaScript plug-in for users that can just DDoS from their browser only. "If you're not the admin and you can't download or install software, or you are afraid this is really malware that can take over your computer, then you can use this JavaScript version of it and create a denial-of-service attack with your browser only," Be'ery says.

All along I've been envisioning the Operation Payback DDoS'ers using their own personal machines. But given how easily accessible these opt-in botnet attacks are today, chances are that some are using their employers' or schools' systems. Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at Damballa, wrote a report (PDF) on opt-in botnets on the rise and how organizations need to be aware and prepare for this type of event.

-- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading Follow Kelly (@kjhiggins) on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kjhiggins

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4448
Published: 2014-10-22
House Arrest in Apple iOS before 8.1 relies on the hardware UID for its encryption key, which makes it easier for physically proximate attackers to obtain sensitive information from a Documents directory by obtaining this UID.

CVE-2014-4449
Published: 2014-10-22
iCloud Data Access in Apple iOS before 8.1 does not verify X.509 certificates from TLS servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2014-4450
Published: 2014-10-22
The QuickType feature in the Keyboards subsystem in Apple iOS before 8.1 collects typing-prediction data from fields with an off autocomplete attribute, which makes it easier for attackers to discover credentials by reading credential values within unintended DOM input elements.

CVE-2012-5242
Published: 2014-10-21
Directory traversal vulnerability in functions/suggest.php in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allows remote attackers to include and execute arbitrary local files via a .. (dot dot) in the name parameter in a get_template action.

CVE-2012-5243
Published: 2014-10-21
functions/suggest.php in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allows remote attackers to read arbitrary database information via a crafted request.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.