AfterBites: Wake Me Up When The "Cyberwar" Is Over...
--US and South Korean Sites Under Attack; Late Data Says Attacking PCs to Self Destruct (July 8 & 9, 2009)
A variant of MyDoom is believed to be behind the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that took down US and South Korean government, military and private industry websites last week. Some reports have speculated that North Korea may be behind the attacks, which have been described as unsophisticated and "a nuisance." Brian Krebs of the Washington Post reports that the virus that is causing PCs to attack these sites will overwrite the files (including the operating system) of the infected computers.
Once again, we have a "cyberwar" that only registers as a blip on the radar screen for most of us. Other than that, it's an inconvenience for government or commercial sites that didn't think about capacity when they built out their internet connections. It's far from a disaster; in fact, it's hardly news-worthy. It's only remotely interesting because, once again, the cyberwar pundits attempted to link the attacks to state sponsorship. Like with the attacks on Estonia in 2007, ("Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar against Estonia") will it turn out to be a few civilians operating under their own initiative? Another way of phrasing that question is "is the North Korean intelligence service a bunch of wimps?"
I originally wanted to decorate this entry with an image frame of Marv in the electric chair, from Sin City, "Is that the best you can do, you *!&#*!?" Seriously, though, you've got to wonder if this is as lame as cyberwar gets - a botnet, a bunch of traffic, some extra usage fees on burstable internet connections, and a stressful day for a handful of network administrators. It's a far cry from the kind of smoking rubble we keep getting told to expect.
Is there a lesson here? Probably a simple one: if networking is not part of your area of expertise, host your site with someone who knows what they are doing. There's a corollary to that, namely: if networking is not part of your expertise what part of "it will need to be, within the next 10 years" isn't obvious? Organizations that don't know enough about networking (and, to some degree, network security) are going to be the ones that forget to ask "do you have anything in place to respond to a DDOS?" It's not a complex question; it's as much a part of doing business on the internet today as asking "do you do your backups?"
Are we ever going to see a real cyberwar? Of course it's easy to predict that sooner or later, someone's going to actually get hurt. In the meantime, do your backups, and keep a grip on your network management; this isn't the disaster you've been warned to expect. If this turns out to be, really, a state-sponsored attack, it must be that the North Koreans outsourced their offensive capability from the lowest bidder.
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