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Don’t Let It Get You Down

At 10 am on Thursday 1 August 2013, the GreenNet ISP was taken down by a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This resulted in  a loss of routing to the network and a loss of services to a sizable number of websites, including the Centre of the Psyclone.

In a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, an attacker attempts to prevent  users from accessing information or services. By targeting a computer and its network connection, an attacker may be able to prevent access to email, websites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer.

The most common and obvious type of DoS attack occurs when an attacker “floods” a network with information. When you type a URL for a particular website into your browser, you are sending a request to that site’s computer server to view the page. The server can only process a certain number of requests at once, so if an attacker overloads the server with requests, it can’t process your request. This is a “denial of service” because you can’t access that site.

In a typical DDoS attack, the assailant begins by exploiting a vulnerability in one computer system and making it the DDoS master. The attack master, also known as the botmaster, identifies and infects other vulnerable systems with malware. Eventually, the assailant instructs the controlled machines to launch an attack against a specified target.

A computer under the control of an intruder is known as a zombie or bot. A group of co-opted computers is known as a botnet or a zombie army. Both Kaspersky Labs and Symantec have identified botnets — not spam, viruses, or worms — as the biggest threat to Internet security.

Greennet have yet to identify the assailant, but one analyst commented that the scale and magnitude of the attack suggested government or corporate (if anyone knows of a clear distinction, please let me know!) sponsors. This wouldn’t be surprising since GreenNet is an ethical ISP that connects people and groups who work for peace, the environment, gender equality and human rights.

Prior to this post, another post How To Remain Connected If Your Internet Gets Shut Off covered ways to overcome the shutting down of the Internet itself. Future posts will cover the issue of online security in further detail.

This morning Greennet experienced a second DDoS (Dedicated Denial of Service) attack. The current attack has not had the same widespread effect on systems as last week’s attack, but may result in temporary inability to access The Centre of the Psyclone website. Thanks to measures taken in response to last week’s attack, any disruption should be shorter than the previous four-day downtime.

Stay tuned.


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