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Anonymous unsheathes new, potent attack weapon

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Members of Anonymous are developing a new attack tool as an alternative to the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) DDoS utility.

The move follows a spate of arrests thought to be connected to use of the LOIC, which by default does nothing to hide a user's identity.

The new tool, dubbed RefRef, due to be released in September, uses a different approach to knocking out websites. LOIC floods a targeted site with TCP or UDP packets, a relatively unsophisticated yet effective approach, especially when thousands of users use the tool to join voluntary botnets.

RefRef, by contrast, is based on a more sophisticated application-level approach designed to tie up or crash the servers behind targeted websites instead of simply flooding them with junk traffic, according to a blog post on the development by an Anonymous-affiliated blog.

"Anonymous is developing a new DDoS tool," the post explains. "So far, what they have is something that is platform neutral, leveraging JavaScript and vulnerabilities within SQL to create a devastating impact on the targeted website."

RefRef, which uses a "target site's own processing power against itself" is undergoing field trials, with tests against Pastebin, the blog post by AnonOps Communications reports.

Arrests in UK, Spain and Turkey connected to LOIC-powered attacks have already prompted some core members of Anonymous to move towards using a new server and dropping LOIC in favour of other attack tools, such as Slow Loris and Keep-Dead DoS. This now seems to be purely a stop-gap measure while RefRef undergoes development.

LOIC was originally developed for network stress-testing, but later released into the public domain where, years later, it became a weapon of choice for hacktivists, most notably in the Operation Payback attacks against financial service organisations that blocked accounts controlled by Wikileaks last December following the controversial release of US diplomatic cables.

The problem with LOIC is that unless attacks are anonymised by routing them through networks, such as Tor, then users will be flinging junk packets that are stamped with their IP address at the targeted systems. These IP addresses can then be traced back to suspects by police.

Whether or not RefRef does a better job at anonymisation, by default, remains unclear but early experiments suggest that Anonymous is brewing a more potent attack tool. "Supposedly, the tool will DoS a targeted website with ease," Dancho Danchev, an independent cyber-threats analyst told El Reg. ®

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