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article imageOp-Ed: 4,800 Australian sites ‘evaporated’ even the backups

By Paul Wallis     Jun 21, 2011 in Internet
Sydney - In a truly gruesome hacker attack on a domain registrar, 4,800 sites in Australia were literally wiped out. This represents a new dimension in cybercrime. The attack has also made it very hard to determine what personal information was also taken.
The attack on Distribute.IT was very thorough. This level of destruction is roughly the equivalent of a holdup turning into a chainsaw massacre. It’s clear that the damage was calculated to affect any investigative efforts. Distribute.IT is doing it tough, using a Google account to communicate with its customers.
The website owners are devastated and their sites are irrecoverable in many cases, with years of work down the drain. Four of Distribute.IT’s servers were beyond recovery as well. The attack on the servers is an extra dimension to the usual hit and run approach.
Cybercrime is now bigger than the drug trade. As usual, criminals are doing everything possible to make life difficult for everyone else. Botnets are springing up all over the world, supplying capabilities to attack systems all over the world. State sponsored botnets aren’t exactly new, either.
The national views, however, are rather limiting, when you realize that just one botnet was estimated to have millions of computers. The current statistics are that 1 in 4 computers will become infected. The fact is that cyberspace needs to be considered as a space in its own right.
What’s being done, you may ask? A lot of talk and enigmatic expressions of doom and gloom. You couldn’t call the rhetoric from the law and order side very inspiring. Even one cybercriminal expert found her own computer infected as part of a botnet when told by her ISP. People don’t have the ability to fight back, and helpful concepts for the public to have any working options to survive seem very thin on the ground. Microsoft recently had an idea of a “benign worm”, but innovations like that don’t seem to be frequent.
The various forms of attack, however, are well known. New forms of attack are relatively rare. Trojans, worms and other charming efforts are pretty straightforward. There’s no indication, however of the method used to attack Distribute.IT, but if that was a test run of a new capability, it worked.
Doing nothing and merely reacting isn’t working. There need to be multiple options and layered defences.
A few options:
Dummy computers to catch and track botnet operators
Virtual computers to fool hackers
Reverse engineering of viruses to work against hackers- Easy and likely to be effective.
Free real time browser protection to reduce the effectiveness of initial infections.
A “secure server” approach to basic communications, which could slow cracking and phishing to a crawl.
Tagging sensitive data with code to make it findable, like a satellite tracking system for the internet.
Active baiting of known bad sites to get hard evidence for prosecution.
…And I’m no expert. Where are the experts? Where are the defensive ideas? Where are the counter attacks? Get your fingers out and start hitting these bastards. The world doesn’t need more misery created by affluent criminals. If the attack on Distribute.IT is a new form of attack concept, time is running out.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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