Feeds

ICANN freezes over fast flux fury

Botnet deadlock

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The non-profit group that oversees the internet's address system is seeking the public's help in deciding what to do about the growing use of a technology known as fast flux, which is used by cybercriminals to thwart take-down efforts, but which can also be used for legitimate purposes as well.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened a 20-day comment period on Monday, the same day its Working Group on Fast Flux issued a report saying, essentially, that its members are deadlocked on key questions about how to proceed.

"Some members of the Working Group provided reasons as to why policy development to address fast flux is outside the scope of ICANN's remit, while others disagreed," the interim report (PDF) stated. "Gaining a common appreciation and broad understanding of the motivations behind the employment of fast flux or adaptive networking techniques proved to be a particularly thorny problem for the WG."

By now, most people who follow current security events know that fast-flux hosting is a way to bring resiliency to botnets used in criminal spam and phishing operations. By using peer-to-peer technology to rapidly change the location of the rogue network's master control channel, there is no single point of weakness for security response teams to bring down. Some of the world's biggest botnets, including Waledac, Asprox and the now-defunct Storm have used it to thrive, despite considerable efforts by white hats to stop them.

"When used by criminals, the main goal of fast-flux hosting is to prolong the period of time during which the attack continues to be effective," according to the report, which was six months in the making. "It is not an attack itself - it is a way for an attacker to avoid detection and frustrate the response to the attack."

But some members of the working group say fast flux has more beneficial applications. Content distribution networks such as Akamai use it to add and drop servers on the fly, perform load balancing, and reduce latency, for example. The report also cited a free-speech group called UltraReach, which claims to use fast flux to circumvent internet censorship by the Chinese government.

"Some solutions aimed at criminal activity could prohibit or constrain non-criminal activity that use similar techniques, or might not differentiate adequately based on the intent of the activity," the report warned. "Whether solutions to criminal fast-flux may constrain non-criminal services and/or the creation of new and legitimate services on the Internet are pertinent issues for consideration."

The report lays out a variety of approaches ICANN can take to limit the use of fast-flux hosts by criminal organizations. One approach involves the gathering and sharing of additional information about registered domains so that it's easier to identify those used in criminal fast-flux operations.

Others call for restrictions on the use of certain types of so-called TTLs, or times to live, which control how long the IP address of a given domain name is cached on a domain-name system server. Fast flux typically uses extremely short TTLs in an effort to constantly scramble the location of a botnet's control channels.

But all of that is purely hypothetical right now, as the 121-page report, prepared at the behest of ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization, makes clear. For now, the working group is still struggling to define precisely what fast flux is and whether it's something the group should assert control over. And for that, it's hoping to hear from you. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.