Cybercriminals Target Russian News and Online Blogging Sites

Recently, Russian news and online blogging websites – Novaya Gazeta and LiveJournal suffered distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release)Apr 11, 2011 – Websites are targeted to gain unauthorized access to confidential information, disrupt services or lodge protest against information provided on those sites. Recently, Russian media and blog sites suffered massive cyber-attack. The latest attack targeted the website of popular newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Attackers purportedly launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. At its peak, the attack caused 70,000 requests to the website of Novaya Gazeta in 14 seconds. Information security professionals have restored the services of the website. The attack on the newspaper website follows a similar attack on LiveJournal, one of the most popular Russian blogging sites. According to an analysis by Kaspersky Lab, the DDoS attack on the popular blogging site was commanded by Optima/Darkness botnet. The attack was first directed on the blog of a well-known anti-corruption campaigner on LiveJournal. The attacks soon spread to the pages of other bloggers on the site. According to the Internet security firm, Optima botnet was first identified at the end of the previous year on the Russian cybercrime black market. The botnet is also notorious for downloading executable files, and stealing authentication information related to FTP clients, Instant Messengers (IM), e-mail clients and web browsers among others. Online technology degree programs, webinars and conferences may help IT professionals in updating their technical skills and know-how for proactive handling of sophisticated cyber threats.

In case of DDoS attacks, cybercriminals use several compromised computers to target a particular resource. Multitudes of requests are sent simultaneously to the targeted resource, making it virtually impossible for the resource to deliver normal services to the legitimate users. Cybercriminals compromise large number of vulnerable systems and install malicious software, without user’s knowledge. The compromised systems, called zombies are then instructed to attack to the targeted resource. By using the zombies to launch attack, the perpetrators of crime make it difficult for investigative authorities to trace the actual origin of the attack. Cyber security education through blogs, online tutorials, online computer degree programs may help in creating awareness on safe online computing practices among Internet users. Users must install and regularly update anti-malware programs to safeguard their computer systems against sophisticated cyber threats.

Both the sites offer platform for expression of alternative opinions on crucial issues. The attacks on these sites assume significance as the elections for ‘State Duma’, the Lower house of the Russian Parliament are scheduled to be held at the end of the year.   DDoS attacks on business websites may severely impact their productivity and result in losses. Administrators must regularly monitor the traffic to identify unusual activity. They may also configure data traffic limits. Professionals qualified in IT masters degree may help in implementing proper monitoring mechanisms and regular evaluation of networks for threat vectors. Organizations must have robust IT security policy in place. Regulations only provide for the minimum security requirements. Therefore, IT security must not be viewed as only a compliance activity. Organizations must be proactive in identification and mitigation of security flaws. IT security apparatus must be regularly evaluated and modernized in tune with changes in threat scenario.