Vulnerabilities / Threats
11:11 AM

Hackers Threaten Destruction Of Obamacare Website

DDoS tool targets the federal Affordable Care Act website. But will it work?

20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
(click image for larger view)

"Destroy Obama Care!"

That's the not-so-subtle name of a homegrown distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack tool that's being advertised for download on some social networks, and which promises to overwhelm the website.

"This program continually displays alternate page of the ObamaCare website. It has no virus, Trojans, worms, or cookies. The purpose is to overload the ObamaCare website, to deny serivce [sic] to users and perhaps overload and crash the system," reads the program's grammar- and spelling-challenged "about" screen. "You can open as many copies of this program as you want. Each copy opens multiple links to the site."

"ObamaCare is an affront to the Constitutional rights of the people," it adds. "We HAVE the right to CIVIL disobedience!"

This is hardly the first DDoS attack tool designed to right perceived political wrongs, according to Marc Eisenbarth, research manager at DDoS defense firm Arbor Networks. "This application continues a trend [Arbor] is seeing with denial-of-service attacks being used as a means of retaliation against a policy, legal rulings or government actions," he said in a blog post.

Indeed, by 2011, Arbor was reporting that half of all DDoS attacks seemed to be driven by ideological motives. Some recent examples have included attacks against everyone from U.S. financial institutions and the Vaticanto Mexican drug cartels and North Korean government sites.

In this case, the anti-Obamacare DDoS tool, which is written in Delphi, is designed to launch numerous layer seven -- application-layer -- requests to the Affordable Care Act website ( as well as the site's contact page ( The intent is to overwhelm the sites with traffic, making them inaccessible to would-be insurance buyers.

Could this attack application be the nail in the coffin for the insurance exchange website, which has faced a rocky launch since its Oct. 1 rollout? The fallout from the botched launch has already lead to the CIO of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services deciding to defect to the "private sector"for an undisclosed position, and President Obama continually promising that the site's kinks will soon be worked out.

Eisenbarth said this DDoS tool most likely can't deliver what it promises. "The request rate, the non-distributed attack architecture and many other limitations make this tool unlikely to succeed in affecting the availability of the site," he said. Furthermore, he noted that to date, Arbor has seen no "active use of this software."

In part, the tool's apparent inability to take down targeted websites demonstrates how grassroots DDoS attacks often face an uphill battle, owing to either technical problems or a lack of a critical mass of participants. Indeed, even some past, large-scale DDoS attacks launched by the hacktivist collective Anonymous didn't succeed in overwhelming targeted sites until -- reportedly -- bot-master benefactors temporarily brought legions of "zombie" PCs to bear on targeted sites.

What of the "Destroy Obama Care!" tool's premise that it allows users to exercise their right to civil disobedience? On this front, the tool's author has read his or her U.S. legal code incorrectly. Indeed, U.S. law enforcement agencies have vigorously prosecuted people who launch DDoS attacks against any website.

For example, after a DDoS tool called Low Orbit Ion Cannon(LOIC) was released under the Anonymous banner in 2010, many users found out -- the hard way -- that the tool didn't mask their IP address. As a result, when users turned the tool on websites designated for attack by Anonymous IRC chat-room operators during Operation Payback, many inadvertently transmitted not only attack packets, but their IP address.

In short order, attacked businesses -- which included MasterCard, PayPal and Visa -- reportedly shared their network logs with the FBI, which traced the IP addresses back to service providers' subscribers, and began arresting suspected LOIC users. Those arrests have been ongoing, and last month, the Department of Justice indicted 13 more men who allegedly used LOIC in 2010 and 2011 as part of Operation Payback.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 4 / 4
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 6:54:40 PM
re: Hackers Threaten Destruction Of Obamacare Website
Shoot,'s overseers should threaten destruction of the site.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 5:13:13 PM
re: Hackers Threaten Destruction Of Obamacare Website
One factor not in's favor to handle an overload of requests is the fact that the site is hosted in government data centers, which don't offer the elasticity commonly associated with web services. Federal rules still prevent many agencies from hositng certain kinds of data on public or hybrid clouds, so they opt to host the data in private government-owned/managed data centers. In's case, CMS would have to acquire more servers (to have on hand during peak periods) than it has currently been authorized to buy.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 4:34:34 PM
re: Hackers Threaten Destruction Of Obamacare Website
At least the website developers would have a better excuse if they were being attacked. Well, they're already being attacked ... but if the website was under attack by someone other than the people just trying to use the thing.
<<   <   Page 4 / 4
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-09
Simple Streams (simplestreams) does not properly verify the GPG signatures of disk image files, which allows remote mirror servers to spoof disk images and have unspecified other impact via a 403 (aka Forbidden) response.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Telephony component in Apple OS X before 10.11, when the Continuity feature is enabled, allows local users to bypass intended telephone-call restrictions via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-09
IcedTea-Web before 1.5.3 and 1.6.x before 1.6.1 does not properly sanitize applet URLs, which allows remote attackers to inject applets into the .appletTrustSettings configuration file and bypass user approval to execute the applet via a crafted web page, possibly related to line breaks.

Published: 2015-10-09
IcedTea-Web before 1.5.3 and 1.6.x before 1.6.1 does not properly determine the origin of unsigned applets, which allows remote attackers to bypass the approval process or trick users into approving applet execution via a crafted web page.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Safari Extensions implementation in Apple Safari before 9 does not require user confirmation before replacing an installed extension, which has unspecified impact and attack vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.