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Hacker meltdown fails to materalise

But there's still concern over spread of DDoS agents

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The widespread fear of a concerted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack over the holiday season thankfully failed to materialise, but security experts are still at odds over how serious the threat was.

Fears about an attack similar to that which swamped prestige internet sites such as Yahoo and eBay led the National Infrastructure Protection Center - the FBI's cyber crime busters - to issue an alert urging security administrators to bolt up their security hatches.

The alert stated that based on FBI investigations and other information: "The NIPC believes DDoS attacks could occur over the holiday. Several security companies have cited the threat of DDOS attacks, and some have taken place already."

Administrators were advised to check their firewall configurations and download a utility from the NIPC site to check whether their network has been infected with DDOS Trojans such as Trin00, Tribal Flood Net, TFN2K, MStream, Stacheldraht and Trinity v3. The SubSeven Trojan, which has been associated with the proliferation of daemons used in DDoS attacks, was singled out as especially risky.

Systems administrators were also advised to update their virus definitions daily and perform thorough scans for viruses and worms.

In the last few weeks, security experts warned that crackers may have planted DDoS Trojans on hundreds of computer systems thereby turning them into "zombies" (clients) that could be turned against sites via a simple command.

The most recent edition of SubSeven supports IRC commands, enabling malicious kiddiots to launch ping floods from each infected machine logged into an IRC channel, using a single command.

DDoS attacks can render a network inaccessible by flooding it with a huge volume of spurious traffic, often generated from hundreds of infected clients. Because of the distributed nature of the attack it can be very difficult to defend against and techniques such as configuring internet routers to block such attacks remain unproven.

All this is scary stuff but, so far at least, nothing much has happened.

Matt Tomlinson, business development director at MIS Corporate Defence Solutions, said the risk had been "hyped and has not come to fruition".

However Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk Management, said he had come across zombie agents on corporate systems, and that it is only a question of when they will be activated.

He added that firms who are infected with zombie agents might find themselves sued for loss of business and other damages by sites subject to denial of service attacks. ®

Related stories:
Clinton Admin goes out in a blaze of cyber-terror
FBI hacker sleuths hint at power-grid disaster
The Mother of all DDoS attacks looms
DDoS degrades the Net
Mafiaboy gets a real job

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