Partner Perspectives  Connecting marketers to our tech communities.
SPONSORED BY
6/29/2017
11:00 AM
Raymond Pompon
Raymond Pompon
Partner Perspectives
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

Doxing, DoS & Defacement: Todays Mainstream Hacktivism Tools

Anyone can get angry at you and become a hacktivist. Here's how to protect your organization from these increasingly common cyber attacks.

Technology is now empowering a sea of change in politics and protest. The use of hacking tools is no longer limited to statecraft and cybercrime; hacking tools are weapons available to anyone and everyone. Their use on a highly cyber-connected society means that information itself can now be easily weaponized. These are the perfect tools for civil disobedience because they enable few to stand against many and make a difference.

Hacktivists use three common offensive cyber techniques to varying degrees to get their messages out there and harass their opponents.

Doxing & Leaking
The first is doxing (dox being short for documents, or docs), which involves publicizing private or personal information on the Internet about a hacktivist’s opponents to intimidate or embarrass them. On a broader scale, leaking is the publication of carefully curated and incriminating emails or confidential documents, which can be effective against organizations or public figures. This is what plays out on the nightly news with WikiLeaks, and it is all too common.

Doxing is a more personal attack that can target individuals within an organization. It involves releasing highly personal, identifying information about an individual that includes details like date of birth, family names, phone numbers, social media profiles, and even photographs. For example, thousands of U.S. law enforcement and government employees have been doxed as part of hacktivist protests.

Denial of Service
In the Internet world, the denial-of-service (DoS) attack is an easy, electronic substitute for a protest march or a sit-in. The real problem with hacktivists perpetrating DoS attacks is the use of illegally subverted computers (pwned bots) woven into distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) botnets. It’s much harder to claim the moral high ground when you DDoS someone using stolen computing resources. Some hacktivists have tried to frame DDoS attacks as legitimate forms of protest although, so far, this hasn’t held any water as a legal defense.

Defacement
Website defacement—changing the visual appearance of a site—was also an early and popular form of hacktivism, essentially taking the form of political graffiti across the Internet. It reached an early apex in 2001 when a mid-air collision between a Chinese fighter plane and a U.S. spy plane occurred. Chinese hackers retaliated by hacking into and defacing nearly a thousand U.S. websites, with American hacktivists responding in kind.

Beyond websites, there are more insidious forms of hacktivist defacement. In its purest form, defacement is an attack against data integrity; that is, someone has corrupted our systems by electronic tampering. Many kinds of systems, such as social media and online polls, can be subverted to send a political message. Political Bots, a research team that investigates the impact of automated propaganda on the public, explains, "The U.S. election saw perhaps the most pervasive use of bots in attempts to manipulate public opinion in the short history of these automated political tools." Entire platforms for political communication and discourse are being defaced, notably sometimes invisibly, to skew influence.

You Can’t Punch a Swarm of Bees
Hacking allows anonymous attacks from small groups or individuals to command an unprecedented level of attention in society. Part of that power is in the protestors’ ability to blend into a faceless, amorphous group. Beyond the Anonymous group, which revels in striking from the shadows, there are many other protest movements banding together solely based on goals and a set of techniques. While some of these groups have some leadership, involvement is more about hashtags than membership cards. Online tools not only facilitate, they also encourage ad-hoc associations and actions around a cause.

The inability to point to a specific leadership in an offending organization can make retribution, containment, and negotiation very difficult. These flash mob style swarms of attacks can be very attractive for protestors who want to modulate their involvement in the cause. The deployment of opt-in DDoS tools like the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) can provide hacktivist movements with a way to arm spur-of-the-moment protestors with powerful cyber-weapons.

Anyone can get angry at you and become a hacktivist. Be sure you have done adequate risk analysis around leaks of email and doxing attacks against staff, sustained DDoS attacks, and defacement of Internet applications.

Get the latest application threat intelligence from F5 Labs.

Raymond Pompon is a Principal Threat Researcher Evangelist with F5 labs. With over 20 years of experience in Internet security, he has worked closely with Federal law enforcement in cyber-crime investigations. He has recently written IT Security Risk Control Management: An ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Privacy Careers Are Helping to Close the IT Gender Gap
Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy, and Information Security Officer, AvePoint, Inc.,  8/20/2018
Intel Reveals New Spectre-Like Vulnerability
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/15/2018
Australian Teen Hacked Apple Network
Dark Reading Staff 8/17/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
F5 makes apps go-faster, smarter, and safer. With solutions for the cloud and the data center, F5 technology provides unparalleled visibility and control, allowing customers to secure their users, applications, and data. For more information, visit www.f5.com.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-15660
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
** DISPUTED ** An issue was discovered in the Ola Money (aka com.olacabs.olamoney) application 1.9.0 for Android. If an attacker controls an application with accessibility permissions, then the attacker can read certain Ola Money data such as a credit card number, expiration date, bank account numbe...
CVE-2018-15661
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
** DISPUTED ** An issue was discovered in the Ola Money (aka com.olacabs.olamoney) application 1.9.0 for Android. If an attacker controls an application with accessibility permissions and the ability to read SMS messages, then the Forgot Password screen can be used to bypass authentication. NOTE: th...
CVE-2018-15481
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
Improper input sanitization within the restricted administration shell on UCOPIA Wireless Appliance devices using firmware version 5.1.x before 5.1.13 allows authenticated remote attackers to escape the shell and escalate their privileges by adding a LocalCommand to the SSH configuration file in the...
CVE-2018-15528
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
Reflected Cross-Site Scripting exists in the Java System Solutions SSO plugin 4.0.13.1 for BMC MyIT. A remote attacker can abuse this issue to inject client-side scripts into the "select_sso()" function. The payload is triggered when the victim opens a prepared /ux/jss-sso/arslogin?[XSS] l...
CVE-2018-15533
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
A reflected cross-site scripting vulnerability exists in Geutebrueck re_porter 16 before 7.8.974.20 by appending a query string to /modifychannel/exec or /images/*.png on TCP port 12005.