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Iranian hacktivists hand-crank DDoS attack

Farsi hackers do without botnets

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The controversial outcome of the Iranian elections has spawned a parallel conflict on the internet.

The cyberconflict is more akin to hand-to-hand fighting than the more sophisticated botnet-powered assualts that have accompanied political conflicts involving Russia and its neighbours over recent months.

Cyber attacks against pro-Ahmadinejad (government) websites have largely been driven by hand, in sharp contrast to the botnet-fuelled attacks associated with cyberconflicts between Russia and Estonia, for example. Security watchers are describing the Iranian conflict as a "crowd sourced cyber-war", featuring DIY denial of service attack tools, web page “refresher” tools and PHP scripts, security blogger Dancho Danchev reports.

"Rather than using simple code, with automated viral botnets and the like, these efforts are largely being driven by hand. There are a number of simple scripts going around that can be downloaded and which continually reload the target Web sites in a browser window," said Jim Cowie, CTO of security tools firm Renesys, Net Effect reports.

Although there is little or no DDoS traffic against opposition websites, they too are being affected because of government-imposed limits of Iranian international bandwidth. Iran all but cut off international data links after last week's election and has only slowly reactivated external circuits since, Arbor Networks reports. In response to the attacks, some websites have applied low-bandwidth versions.

The DDoS attacks, in their current form, are basic and straightforward to thwart, ISC reports. In addition, they carry security risks for hacktivists tempted to get involved.

"The attackers who participate by loading these pages and going off to dinner, sleep, or on with their days open themselves up to attacks back through drive-by attacks," writes Jose Nazario, manager of security research at Arbor Networks.

"Imagine a simple scenario: the victims modify their sites to include some code like LuckySploit that commits a simple set of attacks. The attacker’s machine reloads the page (this is, after all, part of the attack). Hit a browser or accessory bug and bam, the attacker has been attacked." ®

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