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Perimeter

Commercial DDoS Services Proliferate, Are Responsible For Many Recent Attacks

Customers can DDoS a website for as little as $10, Vigilant by Deloitte speaker will tell Black Hat audience

Imagine a service where, for as little as $10, you can hire a provider to launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against any website you choose.

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Now imagine that there are as many as 40 such services across the globe, serving customers as young as age 12.

It's no flight of imagination, according to Lance James, head of intelligence at Vigilant by Deloitte, a provider of security event management and threat intelligence services. It's the real deal, and these commercial "booter" services are growing rapidly.

James will join with security consultant Brian Krebs later this month at the Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas to present the details of research into an emerging class of DDoS-on-demand services, and the findings are frightening.

In research that ties together data from its threat intelligence service -- which taps more than 40 different sources -- and other data collected by the researchers, James and Krebs will offer a snapshot of currently available DDoS services that have been used to launch many of the recent attacks that overwhelmed major websites, including some attacks by Anonymous, James said in an interview on Tuesday.

Some of the DDoS exploits discovered in the research include site-disabling attacks on the White House, Bank of America, MasterCard, Tumblr, and the NSA, James says.

Most of the DDoS services that the researchers studied are able to operate as legitimate entities by offering "stressor" services that enable users and companies to test their DDoS defenses by throwing a lot of traffic at their own websites, James explains. This "cover" usually includes legitimately operated Web servers that serve as command-and-control for the services.

However, some of these service operators are also capable of harnessing larger botnets of zombie computers and proxy servers that enable them to generate even larger amounts of traffic that can be turned like a firehose onto a targeted website, James says.

The services can be purchased at an hourly rate that starts as low as $10 and ranges into the hundreds, James says. One service the researchers studied generated more than $35,000 a month.

Typically, the customers of DDoS services are those in the age range of 12 to 20, James says. "Most of them are just teenagers who want to be able to say that they took down a major website and get into the news, or to take down each other's sites," he says. "It's sort of like writing graffiti on a wall. They can't hack the site themselves, so they pay a service to DDoS it for them."

Of course, there are more serious customers of the DDoS services, including hacktivist groups and organized criminals looking for a distraction to cover a more malicious attack, James says. But for the most part, the buyers of DDoS services are "kiddies hacking each other," he states.

The researchers also have found a number of "tells" that may help enterprises defend themselves against DDoS services. For example, many of the services use the same software code, thanks to a leak that has made it available to all of them. And many DDoS services have been operating on the same Internet service provider, which James declined to name.

Vigilant by Deloitte has been tracking and identifying DDoS services primarily through signatures created by the tools the services use, rather than by attack signatures, James says. By using these signatures, enterprises can defend themselves against some DDoS attacks and block some services.

"There aren't any ways to stop everything, but this talk will give people some ideas on things they can do," James says. "We think it'll help." Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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