Feeds

New-age cyber-attack inflicts major damage with modest means

Ladyboydolls.com and the new DDoS

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A sustained cyber-attack against a handful of niche pornography sites has demonstrated a novel way to inflict major damage on hardened targets using a modest amount of data, a security researcher has warned.

The technique - which tricks the net's authoritative name servers into bombarding innocent victims with more data than they can handle - is growing increasingly common, and it's likely only a matter of time before commercial attack kits add it to their arsenal, said Don Jackson, a researcher with Atlanta-based security provider SecureWorks. He also warned there is no easy fix because any remedy will potentially require settings for millions of DNS, or domain-name system, servers to be individually changed.

The ongoing attacks on several sites related to transvestite porn work by sending hundreds of thousands of domain name servers a steady stream of packets that contain little more than the character "." The queries, which are forged so they appear to have been sent from sites such as ladyboydolls.com and triplexbonanza.com, prompt the DNS servers to respond to the targets with a list of the internet's root servers, responses that contain about eight times more data than the initial request.

"The amplifiers in this attack are name servers configured to what is considered best practices," Jackson told The Register. Preventing the attack will require administrators to make changes to the software running each vulnerable DNS server on the internet, he added.

The attacks began in mid January and have used some 750,000 DNS servers to spew about 5Gbps worth of junk response packets at one victim alone, said Phil Rosenthal, CTO of ISPrime, an internet provider for one of the sites being attacked. Not bad work for a botnet that Jackson estimates is made up of fewer than 2,000 infected machines. The company has since been able to mitigate the attack using a variety of methods.

Representatives from NationalNet, which provides internet service to ladyboydolls.com, declined to comment. Attempts to reach representatives from the targeted porn sites were not successful.

The amplification technique exploits an artifact in the net's DNS from the days when it was considered harmless for a name server to respond to misdirected name queries with the name of a more appropriate server to make the request. Read together, RFCs 1034, 1035 and 1912 call for name servers that are queried for the location of the root servers to honor the request, Jackson and others say.

"There's really no reason to tell the requester that information," said Randal Vaughn, a professor of information systems at Baylor University and an expert in DNS amplification. "The problem is more related to the fact that at one time DNS servers would need to ask each other for help. When name servers started out, there were assumptions made that requests are legitimate, so we'll answer them."

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Next page: A Matter of Time

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.