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Security expert waves DDoS white flag

Gibson pleads with hackers to leave him alone

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Security expert Steve Gibson has posted a plea on his Web site grc.com for hackers to leave him alone.

"I surrender. I surrender right now, completely and unconditionally," it begins. Now what kind of talk is that?

Of course this is all over Steve's widely read piece on the DDoS attacks he was suffering. Steve did a whole lotta investigative work but also made some strong comments about various parties. We gave it some publicity of course, particularly his claim that Windows XP threatens the stability of the Internet.

The article certainly started some debate and attracted plenty of criticism - some of it nonsense ranting, some more reasoned.

Several have claimed that Steve's main point that you can't spoof packets with Windows 9x is simply wrong. It isn't simple, but it can be done. Here's a more technical explanation: "Standard sockets implementations allows you to open up a raw connection, where one can 'roll' their own IP packet.

"However, Winblows ME/98/95 has a very limited subset of sockets, that does not allow among other things, opening a RAW connection, you can't even do ICMP packets. However, there *are* API functions that allow non-standard methods to open raw connections, and talk directly to the network hardware. I will tell you, I am not an amazing hacker and I'm no security expert, but I have written many programs that access the Windows NDIS layer for my company."

Others have complained that Mr Gibson's suggestion that enabling Unix sockets is somehow a bad thing is ridiculous. Many see Windows 9x code as mollycoddling. Their introduction in Windows XP means standard code is written into the OS, helping everyone.

And then there are those who suggest Mr Gibson has put the cart before the horse. To send packets, spoof or not, someone has to gain access to the system. The real problem, they say, is in the security and firewalls, not the OS.

However, it appears that some hackers (notoriously tetchy folk) have seen Steve's article as a "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" stance.

And so, of course, he has been battered and grc.com has disappeared several times.

Steve therefore appealed for them to get off his back by flattering egos and starting a quick guide to how denial of service attacks work. From many of the emails we've had about his article, some readers may see this (wrongly, we believe) as a form of natural justice. Several security folk have been in touch to explain where they think Steve has got it wrong, despite his extensive work.

The open letter (complete with cuddly picture of Steve in big jumper) is here and reads as follows:

"I surrender. I surrender right now, completely and unconditionally. And I'm not kidding.

It is my intention to carefully and completely explain, to the entire world, exactly why there is no defense against the sorts of clever Internet attacks you guys can create.

"I want to do that because the world still doesn't get it. It occurred to me that you might think that I think I'm invulnerable after managing to block the IRC Zombie/Bot attacks, so I wanted to be SURE that you understood that I AM UNDER NO SUCH DELUSION.

"I was talking to a reporter on the phone a few hours ago, during the first REAL, non-blockable attack we have ever experienced. And I calmly explained that we were under attack and off the Net. In a bit of a panic, he asked what I was going to do about it. So I told him that I was going to take a long walk on the beach - because you and I both know there's absolutely NOTHING I CAN DO to defend against a real, professional, Internet Denial of Service attack. So I might as well enjoy the day.

I have started working on a next set of pages to explain all this. The pages are not finished, but you can see what I have so far, and where I'm going with it:

So, I respectfully ask that you leave me alone and allow my site to stay on the Net. I know that you can easily knock me off. That's not even a question. But only if I'm here can I explain that to the rest of the planet.

Thank you for your consideration . . . and for your charity

Steve"

The explanation of DoS attacks starts here.

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