Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

9/13/2013
01:11 AM
50%
50%

Countering Attacks Hiding In Denial-Of-Service Smokescreens

Noisy attacks are increasingly camouflaging more subtle exploits, but a well-structured incident response plan and third-party providers can help limit the noise

Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks have long been considered the blunt wooden club of online hazards -- a multigigabit stream of shock and awe.

Yet increasingly the noisy attacks are being used to hide more subtle infiltrations of a target's network. A number of financial institutions, for example, have been targeted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks immediately following a wire transfer, according to security firms familiar with the cases. The attacks, generated by computers infected with the DirtJumper DDoS malware, attempt to disrupt any response to the fraudulent transfer of funds, which are usually in the six-figure dollar range, according to a report by Dell Secureworks published in April.

"The analogy is signal jamming," says Kevin Houle, director of threat intelligence for managed security provider Dell SecureWorks. "To the extent that you can use the DDoS attack to do cause chaos electronically, to prevent access to particular systems during an attack, the tactic has proved successful."

While DirtJumper has focused on causing chaos immediately following money transfers, the technique could be generalized to other attack scenarios. A variation of the attack has been used by Iranian hacktivists groups to disrupt the online operations of U.S. financial institutions by hiding more subtle application-layer attacks within larger packet floods. And South Korean companies were flooded with data while malware deleted information on organizations' servers.

"Your goal is to sow confusion," says Vann Abernethy, a senior product manager at NSFOCUS, a DDoS mitigation firm. "A DDoS attack is designed to get your IT department to run around like their hair is on fire."

[While distributed denial-of-service attacks topping 100 Gbps garner the headlines, they are not the threat that should worry most companies. See Large Attacks Hide More Subtle Threats In DDoS Data.]

In addition, noisy DDoS attacks could attract more attackers, says Terrence Gareau, principal security architect for Prolexic, a DDoS mitigation firm. A very public attack could convince other groups to attempt their own operations in the chaos, he says.

"If it's a very public attack, then there is a high probability that other opportunistic attackers could take part as well," Gareau says. "Opportunistic criminals will say, wow they are under a DDoS attack, so let's look at the network and see what changes have been made."

Companies need to structure their response group to handle a large infrastructure attack, but not be blinded by the influx of alerts to their system. Like magicians, the goal of the attackers is to force the security staff to only pay attention to a distraction to keep them from discovering the actual trick.

"You almost have to have a team that deals with the infrastructure attack, and a separate group that goes into hypervigilance to find any other attacks coming in," says NSFOCUS's Abernethy.

A third-party provider, which can use intelligence from attacks on other customers to more quickly identify new attacks, can help eliminate much of the inbound attack traffic, dialing down the volume of alerts that the security team has to process. The level of alerts seen by a security team during a DoS attack can increase by an order of magnitude. Filtering them out at the edge of the Internet can greatly reduce the impact on a business' network and employees.

"If you don't have to have all those alerts on your network, you can pay attention to what matters," Prolexic's Gareau says. "Using a third-party mitigation provider can significantly reduce the noise."

Yet attacks that use a variety of traffic and techniques in a short time period can cause problems for DoS mitigation firms, says Lance James, head of intelligence for Vigilance, a threat information firm that is now part of Deloitte.

"They are not perfect," James says. "We still see major banks going down. But they do well against long-period-term DDoS attacks."

While DirtJumper, also known as Drive, is not the only botnet that is used for combined attacks, it is a popular one. DirtJumper has a half dozen ways of attacking infrastructure, including flooding Web sites with GET requests and POST requests, targeting infrastructure with two types of IP floods, and using UDP packets to slow down networks.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
AccessServices
50%
50%
AccessServices,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/16/2013 | 1:20:14 PM
re: Countering Attacks Hiding In Denial-Of-Service Smokescreens
Companies and major carriers have been fighting botnets for years now. Bot herders take advantage of systems that are not properly maintained for their attacks. We need to stop looked at the symptoms and start looking at the problem. The focus should be on preventing these systems from being compromised. Forcing these systems to upgrade is key to stopping these attacks. iHeart radio will not let you access it's services unless you have the latest version of Flash. Other companies should start taking the same action. If ISPs would not allow a PC on its network unless it was patched, a lot of the botnets would be cut down significantly.

Jeff Jones
Security Architect
Abacus Solutions
Major Brazilian Bank Tests Homomorphic Encryption on Financial Data
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/10/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft Patches Windows Vuln Discovered by the NSA
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/14/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Give us your best shot! You might win an Amazon gift card!
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-3686
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-17
openQA before commit c172e8883d8f32fced5e02f9b6faaacc913df27b was vulnerable to XSS in the distri and version parameter. This was reported through the bug bounty program of Offensive Security
CVE-2019-3683
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-17
The keystone-json-assignment package in SUSE Openstack Cloud 8 before commit d7888c75505465490250c00cc0ef4bb1af662f9f every user listed in the /etc/keystone/user-project-map.json was assigned full "member" role access to every project. This allowed these users to access, modify, create and...
CVE-2019-3682
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-17
The docker-kubic package in SUSE CaaS Platform 3.0 before 17.09.1_ce-7.6.1 provided access to an insecure API locally on the Kubernetes master node.
CVE-2019-17361
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-17
In SaltStack Salt through 2019.2.0, the salt-api NEST API with the ssh client enabled is vulnerable to command injection. This allows an unauthenticated attacker with network access to the API endpoint to execute arbitrary code on the salt-api host.
CVE-2019-19142
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-17
Intelbras WRN240 devices do not require authentication to replace the firmware via a POST request to the incoming/Firmware.cfg URI.