Krebs is hit with DDoS attack & then gets kicked off of Akamai. We’ll tell you about the record breaking details, Firefox puts it foot down, picking NFS or Samba…

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Krebs hit with record breaking DDoS attack

  • “On Tuesday evening, was the target of an extremely large and unusual distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack designed to knock the site offline. The attack did not succeed thanks to the hard work of the engineers at Akamai/Prolexic, the company that protects my site from such digital sieges. But according to Akamai, it was nearly double the size of the largest attack they’d seen previously, and was among the biggest assaults the Internet has ever witnessed.”
  • “The attack began around 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 20, and initial reports put it at approximately 665 Gigabits of traffic per second. Additional analysis on the attack traffic suggests the assault was closer to 620 Gbps in size, but in any case this is many orders of magnitude more traffic than is typically needed to knock most sites offline.”
  • “Martin McKeay, Akamai’s senior security advocate, said the largest attack the company had seen previously clocked in earlier this year at 363 Gbps. But he said there was a major difference between last night’s DDoS and the previous record holder: The 363 Gpbs attack is thought to have been generated by a botnet of compromised systems using well-known techniques allowing them to “amplify” a relatively small attack into a much larger one.”
  • Almost all of the previous large scale DDoS attacks were the result of ‘reflection’ and ‘amplification’ attacks
  • That is, exploiting DNS, NTP, and other protocols to allow the attackers to send a small amount of data, while spoofing their IP address to that of the victim, and cause the reflection server to send a larger amount of data.
  • Basically, have your bots send spoofed packets of a few bytes, and the reflector send as much as 15 times the amount of data to the victim. This attack harms both the victim and the reflector.
  • Thanks to the hard work of many sysadmins, most DNS and NTP servers are much more locked down now, and reflection attacks are less common, although there are still some protocols vulnerable to amplification that are not as easy to fix
  • “In contrast, the huge assault this week on my site appears to have been launched almost exclusively by a very large botnet of hacked devices. According to Akamai, none of the attack methods employed in Tuesday night’s assault on KrebsOnSecurity relied on amplification or reflection. Rather, many were garbage Web attack methods that require a legitimate connection between the attacking host and the target, including SYN, GET and POST floods.”
  • “There are some indications that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords.”
  • “I’ll address some of the challenges of minimizing the threat from large-scale DDoS attacks in a future post. But for now it seems likely that we can expect such monster attacks to soon become the new norm.”
  • “Many readers have been asking whether this attack was in retaliation for my recent series on the takedown of the DDoS-for-hire service vDOS, which coincided with the arrests of two young men named in my original report as founders of the service.”
  • “I can’t say for sure, but it seems likely related: Some of the POST request attacks that came in last night as part of this 620 Gbps attack included the string “freeapplej4ck,” a reference to the nickname used by one of the vDOS co-owners.”

The shot heard round the world

  • In this followup post, Krebs discusses “The Democratization of Censorship”
  • You no longer need to be a nation state to censor someone, you just need a big enough botnet
  • “Allow me to explain how I arrived at this unsettling conclusion. As many of you know, my site was taken offline for the better part of this week. The outage came in the wake of a historically large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which hurled so much junk traffic at that my DDoS protection provider Akamai chose to unmoor my site from its protective harbor.”
  • “Let me be clear: I do not fault Akamai for their decision. I was a pro bono customer from the start, and Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company’s paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple.”
  • This poses a huge problem. The bad guys now know the magic number, 650 gbps, at which point even the most expensive DDoS protection service will boot you off and shutdown your site.
  • “Nevertheless, Akamai rather abruptly informed me I had until 6 p.m. that very same day — roughly two hours later — to make arrangements for migrating off their network. My main concern at the time was making sure my hosting provider wasn’t going to bear the brunt of the attack when the shields fell. To ensure that absolutely would not happen, I asked Akamai to redirect my site to — effectively relegating all traffic destined for into a giant black hole.”
  • “Today, I am happy to report that the site is back up — this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship. And make no mistake, DDoS attacks — particularly those the size of the assault that hit my site this week — are uniquely effective weapons for stomping on free speech, for reasons I’ll explore in this post.”
  • This raises another question, what happens when the bad guys perform an attack large enough to disrupt Google?
  • This was the topic of the closing keynote at EuroBSDCon last weekend, sadly no video recordings are available.
  • “Why do I speak of DDoS attacks as a form of censorship? Quite simply because the economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists.”
  • “In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack — if sustained — likely would have cost the company millions of dollars. In the hours and days following my site going offline, I spoke with multiple DDoS mitigation firms. One offered to host KrebsOnSecurity for two weeks at no charge, but after that they said the same kind of protection I had under Akamai would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 per year.”
  • “Earlier this month, noted cryptologist and security blogger Bruce Schneier penned an unusually alarmist column titled, “Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet.” Citing unnamed sources, Schneier warned that there was strong evidence indicating that nation-state actors were actively and aggressively probing the Internet for weak spots that could allow them to bring the entire Web to a virtual standstill.”
  • “Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services,” Schneier wrote. “Who would do this? It doesn’t seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It’s not normal for companies to do that.”
  • “Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes — and especially their persistence — points to state actors. It feels like a nation’s military cyber command trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.”
  • “What exactly was it that generated the record-smashing DDoS of 620 Gbps against my site this week? Was it a space-based weapon of mass disruption built and tested by a rogue nation-state, or an arch villain like SPECTRE from the James Bond series of novels and films? If only the enemy here was that black-and-white.”
  • “No, as I reported in the last blog post before my site was unplugged, the enemy in this case was far less sexy. There is every indication that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — mainly routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords. Most of these devices are available for sale on retail store shelves for less than $100, or — in the case of routers — are shipped by ISPs to their customers.”
  • “Some readers on Twitter have asked why the attackers would have “burned” so many compromised systems with such an overwhelming force against my little site. After all, they reasoned, the attackers showed their hand in this assault, exposing the Internet addresses of a huge number of compromised devices that might otherwise be used for actual money-making cybercriminal activities, such as hosting malware or relaying spam. Surely, network providers would take that list of hacked devices and begin blocking them from launching attacks going forward, the thinking goes.”
  • While we’d like to think that the hacked devices will be secured, the reality is that they probably won’t be. Even if there was a firmware update, how often do people firmware update their IP Cameras? Their DVRs?
  • The cable companies might be able to help by pushing firmware updates, and they have some incentive to do so, as the attacks use up their bandwidth
  • In the end, even if ISPs notified their customers that they were part of the attack, how is a regular person supposed to determine which of the IoT devices was used as part of the attack?
  • If you don’t know how to use a protocol analyzer, and the attack is not ongoing right now, how do you tell if it was your DVR, your SmartTV, your Thermostat, or your refrigerator that was attacking Krebs?
  • And if we thought that 650 gbps was enough to make almost any site neel to an attacker, reports a botnet of 150,000 CCTV/Camera/DVR units, each with 1 – 30 mbps of upload capacity, attacking their network with a peak of 1.1 terabits (1100gbps) of traffic, but they estimate the capacity of the botnet at over 1.5 terabits
  • “I don’t know what it will take to wake the larger Internet community out of its slumber to address this growing threat to free speech and ecommerce. My guess is it will take an attack that endangers human lives, shuts down critical national infrastructure systems, or disrupts national elections.”
  • “The sad truth these days is that it’s a lot easier to censor the digital media on the Internet than it is to censor printed books and newspapers in the physical world. On the Internet, anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor.”
  • The possible solutions presented at EuroBSDCon were even scarier. Breaking the Internet up along national borders, and only allowing traffic to pass between countries on regulated major services like Facebook and Google.
  • Additional Coverage: Forbes
  • Additional Coverage: Ars Technica

Firefox preparing to block Certificate Authority for violating rules

  • “The organization that develops Firefox has recommended the browser block digital credentials issued by a China-based certificate authority for 12 months after discovering it cut corners that undermine the entire transport layer security system that encrypts and authenticates websites.”
  • “The browser-trusted WoSign authority intentionally back-dated certificates it has issued over the past nine months to avoid an industry-mandated ban on the use of the SHA-1 hashing algorithm, Mozilla officials charged in a report published Monday. SHA-1-based signatures were barred at the beginning of the year because of industry consensus they are unacceptably susceptible to cryptographic collision attacks that can create counterfeit credentials. To satisfy customers who experienced difficulty retiring the old hashing function, WoSign continued to use it anyway and concealed the use by dating certificates prior to the first of this year, Mozilla officials said. They also accused WoSign of improperly concealing its acquisition of Israeli certificate authority StartCom, which was used to issue at least one of the improperly issued certificates.”
  • “Taking into account all the issues listed above, Mozilla’s CA team has lost confidence in the ability of WoSign/StartCom to faithfully and competently discharge the functions of a CA,” Monday’s report stated. “Therefore we propose that, starting on a date to be determined in the near future, Mozilla products will no longer trust newly issued certificates issued by either of these two CA brands.”
  • So, existing certificates will continue to work, to avoid impact on those who paid for certificates, but Mozilla will not trust any newly issued certificates
  • “WoSign’s practices came under scrutiny after an IT administrator for the University of Central Florida used the service to obtain a certificate for He soon discovered that he mistakenly got one for To verify that the error wasn’t isolated, the admin then used his control over the github subdomains and to get certificates for,, and When the admin finally succeeded in alerting WoSign to the improperly issued Github certificates, WoSign still didn’t catch the improperly issued certificate and allowed it to remain valid for more than a year. For reasons that aren’t clear, Mozilla’s final report makes no explicit mention the certificates involving the Github or UCF domains, which were documented here in August.”
  • Some other issues highlighted in the Mozilla report:
    • “WoSign has an “issue first, validate later” process where it is acceptable to detect mis-issued certificates during validation the next working day and revoke them at that point. (Issue N)”
    • “If the experience with their website ownership validation mechanism is anything to go by, It seems doubtful that WoSign keep appropriately detailed and unalterable logs of their issuances. (Issue L)”
    • “The level of understanding of the certificate system by their engineers, and the level of quality control and testing exercised over changes to their systems, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does not seem they have the appropriate cultural practices to develop secure and robust software. (Issue V, Issue L)”
    • “For reasons which still remain unclear, WoSign appeared determined to hide the fact that they had purchased StartCom, actively misleading Mozilla and the public about the situation. (Issue R)”
    • “WoSign’s auditors, Ernst & Young (Hong Kong), have failed to detect multiple issues they should have detected. (Issue J, Issue X)”
  • Mozilla Report
  • Mozilla Wiki: WoSign issues
  • WoSign incident report


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