Friday, June 10, 2011

Cyber War, Part 2

As written by Richard A. Clarke "...a DDOS, a "distributed denial of service" attack [such as the one launched by Russia against Estonia on April 27, 2007] normally is considered a minor nuisance, not a major weapon in the cyber arsenal.  Basically it is a preprogrammed flood of internet traffic designed to crash or jam networks.  It is "distributed" in the sense that thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of computers are engaged in sending the electronic pings to a handful of targeted locations on the Internet.  The attacking computers are called a "botnet", a robotic network, of "zombies", computers that are under remote control.  The attacking zombies were following instructions that had been loaded onto them without their owners' knowledge.  Indeed, the owners usually cannot even tell when their computers have become zombies or are engaged in a DDOS.  A user may notice that the laptop is running a little slowly or that accessing webpages is taking a little longer than normal, but that is the only indicator.  The malicious activity is all taking place in the background, not appearing on the user's screen.  Your computer, right now, might be part of a botnet.  What has happened, often weeks or months before a botnet went on the offensive, is that a computer's user went to an innocent-looking webpage and that page secretly downloaded the software that turned their computer into a zombie.  Or they opened an e-mail, perhaps even from someone they knew, that downloaded the zombie software.  Updated antivirus or firewall software may catch and block infections, but hackers are constantly discovering new ways around these defenses.  Sometimes the zombie computer sits patiently awaiting orders.  Other times it begins to look for other computers to attack.  When one computer spreads its infection to others, and they in turn do the same, we have a phenomenon known as a "worm", the infection worming its way from one computer through thousands to millions.  An infection can spread across the globe in mere hours."