Hacker Mercenaries, Weaponized Botnets a Growing Threat
The presidential and defense websites slipped offline, Internet communications were down, and major media were inaccessible. While the Georgian government tried to cope with the country falling into darkness, Russia launched a physical assault with soldiers and tanks.
One of the main weapons of choice in the 2008 cyberwar was a botnet—a network of infected computers sometimes referred to as “zombie armies,” which work as slaves to a master computer. The main attack from a botnet can take websites offline by overloading them, known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
There was something unique about this particular botnet though. “When Russia rolled into Georgia they hired a botnet to shut down the country,” Matthew Jonkman, president of the Open Information Security Foundation, said in a phone interview.
“That was years ago and they’ve gotten even better,” Jonkman said.
The hacker underground has grown since the 2008 attacks. Hackers can now be hired through underground forums using anonymous payment methods like BitCoins, botnets can be rented for as little as $5 an hour, and nearly any target can be taken offline or compromised for the right price.
“Cyber attacks designed to knock Web sites off line happen every day, yet shopping for a virtual hit man to launch one of these assaults has traditionally been a dicey affair,” states Brian Krebs on his popular cybersecurity blog, Krebs on Security.
“That’s starting to change: Hackers are openly competing to offer services that can take out a rival online business or to settle a score,” Krebs states.
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