Extra-Large Denial of Service Attack Uses DVRs, Webcams

Brace yourselves. The rest of the media is going to be calling this an “IoT DDOS” and the hype will spin out of control. Hype aside, the facts on the ground make it look like an extremely large distributed denial-of-service attack (DDOS) was just carried out using mostly household appliances (145,607 of them!) rather than grandma’s old Win XP system running on Pentiums.

Slide from <a href="http://slideplayer.org/slide/906693/">this talk</a> by Lisa Plesiutschnig
Replace computers with DVRs. Slide from this talk by Lisa Plesiutschnig

We can argue all day about whether a digital video recorder (DVR) or an IP webcam is an “IoT” device and whether this DDOS attack is the biggest to date or merely among them, but the class of devices exploited certainly are not traditional computers, and this is a big hit. Most of these devices run firmware out of flash, and it’s up to the end user (who is not a sysadmin) to keep it up to date or face the wrath of hackers. And it’s certainly the case that as more Internet-facing devices get deployed, the hacker’s attack surface will grow.

Why did the DDOS network use these particular devices? We’re speculating, but we’d guess it’s a combination of difficult-to-update firmware and user “convenience” features like uPnP. To quote the FBI “The UPnP describes the process when a device remotely connects and communicates on a network automatically without authentication.” You can see how this would be good for both the non-tech-savvy and hostile attackers, right? (Turn off UPnP on your router now.)

We alternate between Jekyll and Hyde on the IoT. On one hand, we love having everything in our own home hooked up to our local WiFi network and running on Python scripts. On the other hand, connecting each and every device up to the broader Internet and keeping it secure would be a system administration headache. Average users want the convenience of the latter without having to pay the setup and know-how costs of the former. Right now, they’re left out in the cold. And their toasters are taking down ISPs.

Keep others from snooping in your digital life

In our digital age prying eyes are everywhere. The sad thing is that they may even belong to your own government. But no matter who it is, there are some things you can do to keep your private digital devices and content as secure as possible.

The link above goes to [Jerry Whiting’s] discussion on the topic. He’s certainly an interesting speaker, but make sure you’re using headphones at work as the language can be a bit sultry once in a while. He aims the lesson at the Occupy movement, but it’s a fun listen for any conspiracy theorist out there. The topics run the gamut, starting with the specter of physical access, then moving on to protecting your network through traffic analysis and using key pairs. This Security 101 segment comes in two parts (the first one is embedded after the break), each a bit more than thirty minutes. He’s planning to post a second lesson covering hashes and encryption. Continue reading “Keep others from snooping in your digital life”

Russia vs Georgia, the online front


While we’re sure that just about everyone has heard about the conflict between Russia and Georgia, few have probably heard about the role of cyber attacks in the conflict. Shortly before Russia’s armed response, Georgian state web servers were attacked by individuals assumed to be Russian hackers. This attack almost completely obliterated Georgia’s online presence by shutting down the website for the Ministry of Defense, and the Central Government’s main site. The Russian attackers seem to be using some form of sustained DDoS to keep many Georgian sites offline. In an effort to preserve some web presence, the Georgian Government transferred [President Mikheil Saakashvili]’s site to a US hosting provider in Atlanta. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs even created a BlogSpot page after their website initially went down. While politically motivated DDoS attacks have not been rare in past months, this seems to be the first time where the attacking party can be clearly identified. This seems to be the start of a trend where the unconventional methods of cyber warfare are used to gain an advantage over the enemy.

[photo: somefool]