Hacktivists use new tactic to take down websites

A new style of distributed denial-of-service cyber attack has the potential to stymie even the highest quality layered security system.

Unfortunately, there are still some out there that do not have quality application control software in place to protect themselves from the full range of attacks they may face. However, a new style of cyber attack has the potential to stymie even the highest quality layered security system.

Distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) have been around for over a decade, and are an easy way for hacktivists and cybercriminals to temporarily take down a website. In a DDoS attack, hackers use servers to send lots of fake connection requests to a website. Since each connection is a dupe, the hosting server cannot find the computer and thus spends time continually looking for an endpoint. This overwhelms the hosting server, which can degrade website performance or even take it offline entirely, according to CNET.

However, CSO reported that cyber security experts have become much better at targeting and taking down DDoS attacks. That’s because in the past many attacks came through a number of infected servers known as a botnet. Once the servers were detected, they could be taken offline, thus ending the threat.

A new breed of DDoS emerges
A hacktivist group recently found a way to launch a DDoS attack without the need for a botnet, taking the websites of five major U.S.-based banks offline as a result in the past few weeks. Instead of using a central hub, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters have targeted websites using a more scattered approach that is more difficult to detect, CSO reported.

The group on recruits who are instructed to download a program available at two different peer-to-peer file sharing websites. Once the program is on a machine, users can start the program with just one click and then continuously send fraudulent server requests. While it is relatively easy to detect a botnet, it is much more difficult for websites to determine a genuine connection request versus one sent via this program since, to the host server, both look like commands coming from ordinary home networks, according to CSO.

Using this DDoS method, the group has temporarily taken down the websites of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and U.S. Bank. The group says it is targeting the banks in retaliation for a YouTube video that mocks the Islamic faith.

What layered security methods do you rely on to prevent DDoS attacks from taking a website offline? What steps would you recommend banks and others to take to prevent attacks like the one carried out by the hacktivist group? Leave your comments below to let us know what you think about this issue!

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.