Feeds

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

Ladyboydolls.com and the new DDoS

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

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."

Boost IT visibility and business value

Next page: A Matter of Time

More from The Register

next story
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
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
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
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
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.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.