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Carl Herberger
Carl Herberger
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The Lizard Squad: Cyber Weapon or Business?

Even a hacker with the noblest intentions can run afoul of the law by not following six important do's and don'ts.

So, you’re a young, idealistic hacker-type and thinking of starting a new business, routinely lauded for your skill in hacking computers, and usurping the most onerous technical controls. Why not follow your natural talents to develop a "killer app" that could be used as an offensive weapon in the world of security attacks? 

In August, six teenagers in the United Kingdom were arrested for utilizing Lizard Stresser, the for-hire hacking tool offered by the infamous meme group Lizard Squad, which launched a business in "booters," or stress tools like Lizard Stresser. The price for DDoS is really cheap. For instance, a $2.99 payment via PayPal or Bitcoin would buy an attack for 100 seconds a month, while $69.99 gets 30,000 seconds (more than eight hours) of a Distributed Denial of Service takedown. There's even an option for bulk-buy discounts, enabling you to save nearly $40 by purchasing a 30,000 second attack for five years.

Using the Lizard Squad as an indicator, you might think that there may actually be a future in developing businesses aimed at weaponizing the Internet and selling it as a service. Let’s explore what Lizard Squad is actually doing and look at some of the complications to their approach.

3 Don’ts

Don’t #1:  Advertise as a weapon, not a self-defense tool.
"Stresser" sites typically offer users the ability to pay for DDoS attacks against a target, and these sites promise to try to disguise the nature of the attack with the fig leaf of being legitimate load testing sites. That wasn't so much the case with Lizard Stresser, as the botnet-for-hire was purportedly used by its subscribing members during the Christmas week for DDoS attacks on Microsoft's Xbox Live network and Sony's PlayStation Network as a form of advertising for the new service.

For bona fide, fine-standing businesses, the goal should be to provide a product or service that contributes to society. Even gun manufacturers and defense contractors have stated goals of providing for defensive uses and intentions.  If your product or service is designed for offensive uses, then one could argue that the business does not have a legitimate purpose and/or isn’t a business at all, but rather a weapon.   

Don’t #2:  Knowingly contribute to an illegal attack
Companies that knowingly contribute to illegal cyberattacks leave the business of selling a tool or service and enter the world of being a criminal accomplice. Many companies are not seeking to understand or prevent attacks that are wantonly illegal. Instead they attempt to indemnify themselves through End User License Agreements (EULAs) and other such contractual instruments – a slippery slope.    .

Don’t #3:  Register your business in lawless or uncooperative domiciles
If you really want to provide a reputable tool or service, then it will serve that many or most will want your business to operate within jurisdictions with well-established laws and regulations that is known to welcome adjudication of accused perpetrators.

3 Must Dos

Do #1:  Be a solution, not the problem
Real businesses strive to solve a problem. Weapons are designed to cause harm. Many businesses that make technology that can be weaponized often install "kill switch" features or other detection technologies to help law enforcement if the tool is used for malicious purposes.

Organizations uninterested in contributing to the solution eschew such control features and don't concern themselves with the motives of the tools' users.

Do #2:  Be transparent about customers and targets
Transparency is key is defending your intentions as a business. Who are your customers, what technology are you using, what approaches you are taking? If the technology is unique and valuable to you, then it should be protected by copyrights, trademarks and patents. If not, then no need to be cloaked in secrecy.

Realistically, things have not gone that well for Lizard Squad since the launch of LizardStresser. There have been numerous reports that the LizardStresser server itself was hacked, and its database was dumped and posted to known sites in a similar fashion to the Ashley Madison hack.

Usernames and passwords of nearly 13,000 Lizard Squad "customers," along with logs of the Internet addresses that had been attacked by the router botnet, were laid bare for all to see. Police in the UK are now visiting over 50 addresses of registered LizardStresser users and aim to deter others from carrying out similar cybercrimes in the future.

Do #3:  Contribute to the security testing community by sharing information
Great cybersecurity means being able to react to fast-moving changes to the threat landscape, and vendors have a role in assisting the community at large. Numerous governments have been trying to rally the security vendor community into a collection of trusted information providers.

Even if a hacker has noble intentions, when cybercrime pops up in the news, it’s often portrayed in a negative light. If you keep in mind that the business you are in needs to traverse "squeaky clean" processes and procedures, you can successfully navigate the business of security and the ire of those who would object to the ethics of your decision in order to start the business.    

Best of luck for those of you interested in contributing to the body of security knowledge with a great and legal new business!

Carl is an IT security expert and currently manages Radware's security practice in the Americas. With over a decade of experience, he began his career working at the Pentagon evaluating computer security events affecting daily Air Force operations. Carl also managed critical ... View Full Bio
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