DDoS Attack on KrebsOnSecurity.com

Last week, not long after I published the latest installment in my Pharma Wars series, KrebsOnSecurity.com was the target of a sustained distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that caused the site to be unavailable for some readers between Nov. 17 and 18. What follows are some details about that attack, and how it compares to previous intimidation attempts.

The DDoS was caused by incessant, garbage requests from more than 20,000+ PCs around the globe infected with malware  that allows criminals to control them remotely for nefarious purposes. If you’ve noticed that a few of the features on this site haven’t worked as usual these past few days, now you know why. Thanks for your patience.

I shared the log files of the attack with Joe Stewart, director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks. Stewart discovered that the botnet responsible for hitting my site appears to have been created with Russkill, a commercial crimeware kit that is sold for a few hundred bucks on the hacker underground. Russkill, sometimes called Dirt Jumper, does its dirty work by forcing infected systems to rapidly request the targeted site’s homepage.

Stewart said he suspects — but can’t prove – that the control center for this botnet is noteye.biz, based on traffic analysis of Internet addresses in the logs I shared with him.

“I did not already have [noteye.biz] under monitoring so it is impossible to say for sure what targets were hit in the past,” Stewart wrote in an email. He noted that the same attacker also apparently runs a Dirt Jumper botnet at xzrw1q.com, which also is currently attacking Ukrainian news site genshtab.censor.net.ua, and kidala.info (“kidala” is Russian slang for “criminal,” and kidala.info is a well-known Russian crime forum).

“According to my logs this botnet did attack your site back in April, so this is some additional circumstantial evidence that suggests the noteye.biz [control network] may have been involved in the recent attack on your site,” Stewart wrote.

As Stewart notes, this is not the first time my site has been pilloried, although it was arguably the most disruptive. In October 2010, a botnet typically used to spread spam for rogue Internet pharmacies attacked krebsonsecurity.com, using a hacked Linux server at a research lab at Microsoft, of all places.

I’ve spoken at more than a dozen events this year, and the same question nearly always comes up: Do you ever get threatened or attacked? For the most part, the majority of the threats or intimidation attempts have been light-hearted.

Yes, occasionally crooks in the underground will get a bit carried away – as in these related threads from an exclusive crime forum, where I am declared the “enemy of carding;” or in the love I received from the guys at Crutop.nu, a major Russian adult Webmaster forum (the site now lives at Crutop.eu).

But some of the “attacks” have been downright funny. In June, someone hacked a news site and planted a story falsely claiming that F-Secure researcher Mikko Hypponen and I had been arrested for selling stolen credit cards.

My name also has been known to show up in malware. In June, a Trojan downloader that peddled adult Web sites included a reference that I had somehow gotten married to security blogger Dancho Danchev. In 2010, Fortinet found a variant of the spam botnet installer Pushdo that was controlled by a domain name called “fuckbriankrebs.com.” In 2009, Sophos wrote about a new email malware campaign disguised as an alert about a wayward DHL package: The message included a “tracking number” that was essentially the same sentiment, only spelled backwards.

I guess my stories about the ZeuS Trojan have angered those guys as well. In February 2010, a piece I wrote warning people about an oddball version of the ZeuS Trojan that stole Microsoft Word documents and PDFs was re-purpopsed to help make a follow-up campaign more successful.

Update, Nov. 23, 9:31 a.m. ET: As noted by one commenter already, a deep dive into Russkill/Dirt Jumper was recently published at DeepEndResearch.org, a new group that includes some well-known security researchers.

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