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.

Risk

9/9/2008
09:00 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Botnets Behind Georgian Attacks Offer Clues

Scrutiny of botnet activity indicates Russia's attacks on Georgia weren't state-sponsored

At a closed-door Internet security summit in Estonia this week, a researcher will reveal new findings on the botnets behind the cyber-attacks on the former Soviet republic of Georgia that began last month and remains under way today. (See Georgian Government, News Sites Under Cyber Attack.)

Arbor Networks researchers Danny McPherson and Jose Nazario say that their latest findings indicate Georgia retaliated by waging some distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks of its own on Russian Websites. The researchers found no evidence that Russia’s attacks on Georgia -- nor Georgia's responses -- were full-blown, state-sponsored cyber-warfare.

McPherson will present this new research on Thursday at the Internet Security Operations and Intelligence summit in Tallinn, Estonia.

At the height of the attacks last month, the Georgian government issued a statement from a temporary Website saying that its sites and some Georgian news sites were under a coordinated denial-of-service attack from Russia. The attacks started in July with a DDOS on the president of Georgia’s Website.

Nazario, security researcher for Arbor, says the Georgian president’s Website, Georgian ministries, and other sites there are still under DDOS attack.

And the researchers discovered a couple of botnets that have been DDOS’ing both .ru (Russian) and .ge (Georgian) hosts, suggesting that the attacks may be the work of instigators from outside both governments. “We have further strengthened our feeling that this is non-state actors at this time. But we don’t know why the botnets struck. Was it nationalism? Was it anger? Or was it for-hire? We don’t know and we may never know,” Nazario says.

The Russian-run Machbot botnet was behind the July attacks on the Georgian president’s site, the researchers say. “Machbot is primarily a Web-based Russian DDOS botnet written in Russian, used by several different groups, but not widely available,” says McPherson, chief research officer for Arbor. “These were the first attacks we observed that appeared to be related to this conflict. Interestingly, the C&C [command and control] of Machbot is located in the U.S.”

The Arbor researchers warned back in January that Machbot and other Web-based botnets from Russia could signal the arrival of larger and more politically motivated DDOS attacks worldwide. (See DDOS Botnets Thriving, Threatening.)

One of those botnets, Black Energy, was a key player in the Georgian DDOS strikes. At their peak, the Georgian attacks hit 800 Mbit/s, eight times larger than the attacks on Estonia. But the peak attack duration was six hours, which was shorter than the peak in Estonia, Nazario says. “There were more botnets, it seems, than there were in the Estonia” attacks, he says.

While the botnets waged brute-force attacks, the targets they went after weren’t especially sensitive, he says. “Almost none of [the sites] were required for daily operations,” Nazario says.

McPherson says he didn’t see much volunteer bot activity, despite reports that some Russians were offering up their machines to DDOS Georgia. “There were lots of invitations sent, as with Estonia, and perhaps even more. We didn't see any indication of a large number of these types of participants this time around,” he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Arbor Networks Inc. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Why Cyber-Risk Is a C-Suite Issue
    Marc Wilczek, Digital Strategist & CIO Advisor,  11/12/2019
    DevSecOps: The Answer to the Cloud Security Skills Gap
    Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  11/15/2019
    Attackers' Costs Increasing as Businesses Focus on Security
    Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/15/2019
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
    Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
    Current Issue
    Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
    In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
    Flash Poll
    Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
    Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
    Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2014-5118
    PUBLISHED: 2019-11-18
    A Security Bypass Vulnerability exists in TBOOT before 1.8.2 in the boot loader module when measuring commandline parameters.
    CVE-2019-12422
    PUBLISHED: 2019-11-18
    Apache Shiro before 1.4.2, when using the default "remember me" configuration, cookies could be susceptible to a padding attack.
    CVE-2012-4441
    PUBLISHED: 2019-11-18
    Cross-site Scripting (XSS) in Jenkins main before 1.482 and LTS before 1.466.2 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML in the CI game plugin.
    CVE-2019-10764
    PUBLISHED: 2019-11-18
    In elliptic-php versions priot to 1.0.6, Timing attacks might be possible which can result in practical recovery of the long-term private key generated by the library under certain conditions. Leakage of a bit-length of the scalar during scalar multiplication is possible on an elliptic curve which m...
    CVE-2019-19117
    PUBLISHED: 2019-11-18
    /usr/lib/lua/luci/controller/admin/autoupgrade.lua on PHICOMM K2(PSG1218) V22.5.9.163 devices allows remote authenticated users to execute any command via shell metacharacters in the cgi-bin/luci autoUpTime parameter.