‘Booter Shells’ Turn Web Sites into Weapons

Hacked Web sites aren’t just used for hosting malware anymore. Increasingly, they are being retrofitted with tools that let miscreants harness the compromised site’s raw server power for attacks aimed at knocking other sites offline.

It has long been standard practice for Web site hackers to leave behind a Web-based “shell,” a tiny “backdoor” program that lets them add, delete and run files on compromised server. But in a growing number of Web site break-ins, the trespassers also are leaving behind simple tools called “booter shells,” which allow the miscreants to launch future denial-of-service attacks without the need for vast networks of infected zombie computers.

absoboot.com’s configuration page

According to Prolexic, an anti-DDoS company I’ve been working with for the past few weeks to ward off attacks on my site, with booter shells DDoS attacks can be launched more readily and can cause more damage, with far fewer machines. “Web servers typically have 1,000+ times the capacity of a workstation, providing hackers with a much higher yield of malicious traffic with the addition of each infected web server,” the company said in a recent advisory.

The proliferation of booter shells has inevitably led to online services that let paying customers leverage these booter shell-backdoored sites. One such service is absoboot.com, also reachable at twbooter.com. Anyone can sign up, fund the account with Paypal or one of several other virtual currencies, and start attacking. The minimum purchase via PayPal is $15, which buys you about 5 hours worth of keeping a site down or at least under attack.

If you’d prefer to knock an individual internet user offline as opposed to a Web site, absoBoot includes a handy free tool that lets users discover someone’s IP address. Just select an image of your choice (or use the pre-selected image) and send the target a customized link that is specific to your absoBoot account. The link to the picture is mapped to a domain crafted to look like it takes you to imageshack.us; closer inspection of the link shows that it fact ends in “img501.ws,” and records the recipients IP address if he or she views the image.

When I reviewed this service, the “booter statistics” box said it had more than 450 registered users who had used the site to launch some 5,816 DDoS attacks. I wanted to find out more about the brains behind this offering, so I sent a message to the site’s owner by clicking the “contact” form on the homepage. I identified myself as a reporter, but received a short “not interested” reply. The response came via the email address [email protected], which had the alias Robert Danielson assigned to it.

Orgy’s profile on hackforums. Note the bigkesh.com reference.

Things got a bit more interesting when I Googled absoboot.com, and found that it was being promoted at hackforums.net by a 23-year-old user named “Orgy,” who claimed to be owner of the DDoS service, and the person responsible for a software design firm called BigKesh.

It’s not clear what kind of software BigKesh is involved in devising, but the historic WHOIS records from DomainTools tell me that the [email protected] account is the registrant of record for Bigkesh.com and another domain — bigke.sh. The Web site registration records for the latter domain indicate that it was registered a year ago by a Robert Danielson, of 30 Tumbleweed Ct., Sumter, South Carolina.

Further Google-fu led me to this article in the Johnson City Press from June 2011, which said that a (then 22-year-old) man named Robert George Danielson at that Tumbleweed Ct. address had been arrested and charged with a string of auto and home burglaries, including the break-in at a local police chief’s home in which firearms were stolen. Danielson reportedly entered an Alford plea in that case (a plea of guilty containing a protestation of innocence); the current status of that case is unclear. On June 29, 2012, the 23-year-old Danielson was arrested again, this time near Myrtle Beach and for driving on a suspended license.

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