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Botnet Crime The Courts

Prosecuting DDoS Attacks? 164

Posted by timothy
from the secret-prisons-too-good-for-'em dept.
dptalia writes "We all have heard of major DDoS attacks taking down countries, companies, and organizations. But how many of them are ever prosecuted? And how many prosecutions are even successful? I've done some research and it appears the answer is very few (Well duh!). And those that are successfully prosecuted tend to have teenagers as the instigators. Does this mean DDoS is a fairly safe crime to conduct? Are the repercussions nonexistent? Does anyone have some knowledge an insight into this that I don't have? How would you go about prosecuting a DDoS attacker? What's your experience with getting the responsible parties to justice?"
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Prosecuting DDoS Attacks?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    is that they have to get the MIT administration to cooperate.
  • Don't do if you don't want a other Terry Childs on your hands.

  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:13PM (#32478000)

    We get away with it daily here.

  • by AnonymousX (1632759) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:14PM (#32478014) Homepage
    2 chanologists got a year in the slam each thanks to their DDOS of Scientology.
  • ...DDoS goes unpunished because it usually originates through bot-nets and zombie computers. More so when trace-back leads to "masterminds" located in countries outside the country of targeted host.

    If you get DDoS'ed by a teenager, maybe you deserve it. BTW, who the hell are you and your "research"?

  • by jd (1658)

    ...using William Gibson's "black ice" from Neuromancer.

  • Illegal; but.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:25PM (#32478098) Journal
    The basic problem with DDoSes is that anyone who isn't a moron(ie. the teenage punks who get caught), is generally working from behind multiple layers of indirection and usually across a number of jurisdictions. What they are doing is probably illegal in all of them; but the degree to which the authorities care, or are on the ball enough to do anything about it can be pretty limited.

    It doesn't help that a lot of the DDoS victims are either clueless and irrelevant(Yup, the feds don't really care about dialup users getting ping-flooded on IRC), widely considered to be a little shady themselves(*Call to the FBI* "Hi guys, I run this offshore gambling site in Antigua, and I've been having some problems with DDoS attacks that are really cutting in to my ability to serve American customers during peak sporting-event times...." *click*), or are parties in some sort of nationalist pissing match, of the sort where many "patriotic excesses" have a tendency to be overlooked(Yeah, I'm sure the Russian authorities are working night and day to bring to justice anybody involved in atttacks against Estonia...)

    While, as a matter of law, DDoSing is hard to do legally, even in fairly shady areas(if nothing else, your botnet likely implies a fair number of computer-intrusion crimes in jurisdictions where that is an offense, and it is unlikely at best that you are properly reporting and paying taxes on the "protection" money that you are collecting). However, with the complexity of cross-jurisdiction investigation and prosecution, and without the massive public antipathy that something like kiddie porn has, the odds of actually getting brought to justice are fairly low, unless you are basically just a petty vandal, hitting some high-profile target in the same country as you.
    • Re:Illegal; but.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:35PM (#32478172)

      A DDoS requires many hosts in different places... and that role is usually played by a botnet of unwitting users. If users cared more about their bandwidth consumption, or were responsible for the damage they caused by their insensitivity to the Internet community, then botnets would be a whole lot harder to assemble. I'm sick of the 3am calls from the girl who only calls when her computer won't work for her....

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:54PM (#32478334) Journal
        Perhaps I am underestimating the public's perverse acceptance of broad criminalization of all kinds of stuff; but I find it hard to believe that any scheme where Joe Public could find himself paying serious fines or doing serious time just for plugging in a commercially available computer and running normal software would possibly be adopted.

        I'd be delighted if there were something that caused people to wipe their flyblown zombie-boxes more often than they do now; but essentially criminalizing getting compromised seems cruel and ineffective when it is so easy to do and sometimes so hard to detect. You don't have to be "negligent", in any useful sense of the term, to get hit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LostCluster (625375) *

          Not applying security fixes, or not having a minimal level of antivirus/firewall software is a sure way to join a botnet lately. We need those $15/yr. subscribers to pay the white hat hackers who develop antivirus tech, this isn't like letting a magazine subscription lapse.

          • by berzerke (319205) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @06:24PM (#32478556) Homepage

            ...not having a minimal level of antivirus/firewall software is a sure way to join a botnet lately...

            Even having one isn't nearly as much protection as most of us would like to believe. A 2007 research study by Panda Labs [pandasecurity.com] found that about 23% of infected machines had active and up-to-date AV software.

            My own tests of AV software were less than encouraging and made the 23% quite believable. The better software either had more than a few false positives (Avira), or can be a PITA for non-techie users, and even techie users, (Comodo).

            • by ShakaUVM (157947)

              My mother's computer was up to date with windows and flash patches, spybot S&D, and antivir, and still got rooted somehow. I had to go back home, so I couldn't finish cleaning it up. She took it to a shop, destroyed the machine claiming it was unsalvageable, and then sold her a new one.

              • by jimicus (737525)

                Frankly, if they charge per hour it and she didn't have restoration disks, it probably was unsalvageable - at least, not without incurring more cost than the value of the computer.

                • by ShakaUVM (157947)

                  >>Frankly, if they charge per hour it and she didn't have restoration disks, it probably was unsalvageable - at least, not without incurring more cost than the value of the computer.

                  Given that all the data was available on the computer before they destroyed it, I'm of the school of thought that they just blew it up to sell her a new computer.

                  • by jimicus (737525)

                    Unless they're selling hardware at silly prices, I wouldn't bet on that. Profit margins for most hardware are so low they'd probably make more money to charge for a few hours of cleanup.

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @09:04PM (#32479576)

          The public's acceptance of that crime is simply the same that applies to everything else:

          Does it affect me?
          No.
          Can I get in trouble for it?
          No.
          Then why the heck should I care?

          That's basically what it comes down to. People do not care about crime that (appearantly, or at least directly) does not affect them. Even if they're being made accomplices. Why? Because it takes an effort to avoid it and there's no gain in it. Simple as that.

          And no, you can't really make people directly liable for the damage they do that way. As much as I'd like it, but even I could, unwittingly, become part of a botnet. A fair lot of malware passes through my machines here on a daily base. That one of them manages to escape the sandboxes sooner or later is a given. So, for simple self preservation, I wouldn't really want to see such a law become reality. Besides, it is near impossible for the average user to 100% avoid becoming subject to an infection. Yes, that includes you, dear reader. Not being a moron does help a lot to minimize the infection propability, but it does not remove it entirely. And with knowledge comes the (false) sense of security that you're too good to be infected. You're not. Well, you might be if you don't use Windows. But don't count on it. How often did you reinstall your Windows in the last 2 years? The average clueless idiot does so about every 6 months. And at least then his machine will be clean again. I have to admit, some of the machines here have been running Windows for over 5 years now. Are they still clean? I sure hope so. Am I sure? Not really.

          But, and here is the point where I'd put the liability angle, I do what I can to keep them clean. I update their software. I keep them patched and sealed. I use a router to avoid external direct access. They are hidden behind a layer of firewalls. And of course they run on-access AV scanners, and are regularely swept with a different on-demand scanner. And aside of the firewall layers this is something that can easily be asked from Joe Randomuser: Get a router, get a AV scanner and get a software firewall. Where's the problem with that? You don't need to have a huge knowledge of computers to install those tools and turn on auto updates on the software you're using.

          I wouldn't call it asking too much from any user to do that. If you got that and still get infected, pity. But you're off the hook. You did everything that could possibly be asked from you as a normal user. But if you install every kind of crap that's sent to you in a spam mail and poke around the net without any protection at all then yes, you're acting negligent. And then you should be liable for the damage you do.

          • by LBt1st (709520)

            Joe-User doesn't even know what a router is. To him it's a blinking box put in by them TV people. And a firewall? Might as well be talking about the latest monster truck event.
            Fact is, most people are clueless and until they all replace their computers with smartphones and wired toasters we just have to accept that they're going to mess things up for the rest of us.

            • Ok, then go and get a course for computers 101. What? A course just to check my email? Yes. For every other kind of operation where you may put someone else in jeopardy you have to take a course, take some lessons or even pass a test. Why not computers and internet use?

              Note that I don't say anything about an "internet license" or similar rubbish. Just that there should be a certain minimum standard expectation from you (i.e. having a router in front of you and having an AV tool installed) or your ass is on

          • by Hatta (162192)

            People do not care about crime that (appearantly, or at least directly) does not affect them.

            Then why has there been such support for the war on drugs, the criminalization of prostitution, crackdowns on illegal immigration, etc.?

            • by RobDude (1123541)

              It doesn't matter if it does or doesn't affect them. It only matters if they *think* it affects them.

              It took a lot of marketing and fear-mongering to convince people they needed to make drugs illegal to pro-actively prevent addicts from raping and killing their daughters.

        • by rdnetto (955205)

          Obviously fining the members of botnets is impractical. A better idea would be to require the ISPs to disconnect them, although you'd have to be very specific about what they were allowed to monitor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nemyst (1383049)
      Even teenagers rarely get caught. I know someone whose server has been flooded multiple times over by one of those punks you speak of. He knows the name, address, school, he called the police, FBI, police in the server's country... And nothing. The police don't give a damn about it, despite the entire thing costing him money every month (it's a large dedicated server that's getting taken down). The FBI didn't hear "child porn" or "terrorism" so they also don't give a damn. Basically, he's entirely stuck alo
      • by Bert64 (520050)

        How conclusive is the evidence?
        If it's all digital log files, how do you prove they haven't been manually created? If they pick the guy up and he denies it, then what? Even if they do successfully bust him, he's a minor and likely the first time he's been caught so not much is going to happen anyway... And if you take matters into your own hands, it's likely you that will get busted for harassing a minor.
        But most of all the feds don't care because you aren't paying them enough to care... If you were a big c

        • If it's all digital log files, how do you prove they haven't been manually created? If they pick the guy up and he denies it, then what?

          The police can request his ISP logs to confirm, it's not that hard. They simply have more important things to do.

          • by Bert64 (520050)

            Most ISPs won't keep logs beyond when they connected and when they disconnected, they won't log the actual traffic to show that the user connected to the first in a series of systems leading to the botnet ommand&control server...
            And even if they did get logged connecting to the command&control server, it would be hard to prove they were in control of it and not just another bot.

            And it's all still just digitally created logfiles, trivial to forge such that a half decent lawyer would easily be able to

      • It's just one person? Flood protection at a firewall level works fine when the attacker(s) floods from the same IP continually.

      • by Kreigaffe (765218)

        If he's got all that info, just file a civil suit for damages. Sure, it might not be easy to actually recover the money, but it might get the ball rolling at least.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Isn't that what stuttering is for? Sure it doesn't really solve the problem, but it does make it quite a bit more expensive for attackers to do such things.
      • by dptalia (804960)
        Now THAT'S interesting, and potentially useful to some research I'm doing. Would your friend be willing to talk to me?
    • the odds of actually getting brought to justice are fairly low, unless you are basically just a petty vandal, hitting some high-profile target in the same country as you.

      So when can I start?

    • i got dossed ONCE (Score:2, Interesting)

      by chronoss2010 (1825454)
      and i\\when server went down it cost me 150$ i contacted the isp ISP said to email UUNET UUNET told me to CONTACT the iSP after 3 more times at his shit i sent an email to all involved and said "OK if your not willing or able to stop this i will and do not give me any legal repercussion on how i permanently end the problem" I then made apiece a software that targeted the PERSON in Argentina doing it and 75% of the isps in that country. then handed this software to 150 other hackers i knew around the world
    • Years ago, a webserver that I was admin for was hacked. It was a multi-homed machine with perhaps 300 websites on it, and permissions were all over the map. I did numerous permissions scans and found a nasty dog's breakfast of 777 directories, this works, but I never got approval to do the work to clean it up because of potential customer upset.

      So in this case, somebody used a flaw in a vulnerable formmail.cgi (remember that one?) uploaded a perl script in a hidden "dot" directory in a 777 images folder tha

    • I bet that when they start DDos'ing multi-billion dollar gambling organizations (you know who they are) the reprisals will be much swifter and much much more effective than anything the legal system could manage. And working behind multiple layers of indirection and jurisdictions etc. etc. will not save them.
  • Dear China... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:25PM (#32478104)

    My company, and our hosting clients, are victims of DDoS attack at a surprisingly high frequency. Although this has cost us thousands, and if you believe our angry customers it's cost them millions, we've never even attempted to prosecute a DDoS perpetrator for the following reasons:

    1) The fact that a DDoS is distributed means we'll be left with a list, in the best case scenario, of hundreds or thousands of IP addresses, without the slightest clue which one might lead to the real troublemaker. In fact, for most types of DDoS, none of them lead to the perp in any special way. Often times DDoS attack machines are just zombied desktop computers, infected by a virus the genius user got from clicking on a porn ad.

    2) In my experience, the vast majority of DDoS IPs are zoned to foreign countries. Mostly developing nations, or nations not particularly interested in Internet crimes against a US hosting company.

    3) Even if the person or persons responsible for the attack were my next-door neighbors, we'd still need to track their actions through servers zoned in other countries. Try sending a subpoena to a (the?) Chinese ISP, asking for logs (if they even exist) from a server within their borders. Even if the log files showed activity from the perpetrator, it would still be somewhat circumstantial, and up for debate ("My computer has been hacked before / My wifi connection isn't secured / etc").

    4) Even if you somehow managed, against all odds, to find the perpetrators, who were within a sane legal jurisdiction, and you won a contentious civil court case against them... Is a 17 year-old script kiddie really going to have any money?

    It simply isn't worth the hundreds, if not thousands of man hours for us to jump down the rabbit hole for what's honestly not going to be much, if any, reward. I have never once in my life heard of a single successful DDoS prosecution that justified the cost in doing so.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      And most attacks of this kind are using spoofed packets, so finding the actual nodes in the first place can be quite difficult.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        It depends - one of the most effective ways to kill a small site is to perform a "bandwidth rape" until they cross their monthly limit. A couple dozen people running simple wget loop requesting a large image/video continually can waste hundreds of gigabytes per day.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      4) Even if you somehow managed, against all odds, to find the perpetrators, who were within a sane legal jurisdiction, and you won a contentious civil court case against them... Is a 17 year-old script kiddie really going to have any money?

      Most likely there's someone far more "serious" being huge DDoS operations than 17 year old script kiddies, they might be hirelings but nothing more and you can be sure there's money at the top. The trouble is that many career criminals rarely have any legal money, just black money. Mysteriously they always make rent and their car lease but they never have any assets for anyone to seize or wages to garnish. Or it's somehow whitewashed and put on relatives or some other way you can't reach it. So the conclusi

  • My web host (MediaTemple) got hammered with a DDoS aimed at their DNS servers over the last few weeks. As a result, I've put my most critical domains using ZoneEdit's free-for-your-first-five DNS offer, with the web host playing backup, for my most critical domains. This plan successfully weathered a repeat attack.

    To paraphrase Jim Cramer, redundancy must be the only free lunch in IT.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But the risk of being DDoS'ed due to what I might say is too great.

    The 1st rule of defending yourself against DDoSers is not to talk about how to prosecute DDoSers, or DDoSers being brought to justice.

  • by dominious (1077089) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @05:37PM (#32478190)

    Does this mean DDoS is a fairly safe crime to conduct?

    Oh I see "someone" is very interested in DDoS attacks for "research" right? Dude, listen, just give the link here and your problems will be solved.

    • by dptalia (804960)
      :) Actually I'm writing a paper on it for a National Security Law class....
  • In California it is legal to throw eggs at a house. So all we need is names and addresses....
    • I thought the left-coasters, er, I mean liberals, extended animal welfare laws to fetuses and embryos. Think of the poor pre-baby chickens!

      Oh wait, you must mean non-fertile eggs, my bad.

      • Egging them on (Score:3, Informative)

        by billstewart (78916)

        IIRC, California passed an anti-animal-cruelty referendum, but it's got a couple of years to phase in.

        Most eggs are non-fertile; the main people selling fertile eggs are selling them to random health-fooders, or else they're selling them because it's easier not to check whether your free-range hens have had access to a rooster.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kreigaffe (765218)

      I very, very seriously doubt that vandalism is legal in California.

      You should take those urban legends you hear with a larger grain of salt next time.

      It could be argued that toilet papering someone's house is legal, but eggs can and will easy cause actual damage that takes actual real money to fix. Eggs on a car can cause the whole car to need to be stripped and repainted.
      Eggs are serious fucking business, not a harmless prank.

  • Presumably, you have the teenagers, the small time crooks and the foreign government hackers.

    The small time crooks will go for smallish targets that have reasonable amounts of cash. They'll get noticed but aren't going to be a law enforcement priority. Even multi-million dollar companies don't have a lot of governmnet influence - you need to be valued in the billions for that.

    The teenagers will go for the big corporations or the government because they can and they want to get noticed. Well, surpr
  • If you are a rich company that is well connected politically you can get away practically anything, this also goes for DDOS attacks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) *
      And if you're a rich company that can pay for more bandwidth and processing than the other guy, you're virtually immune to DDoS problems.
  • I expect that the people behind the DOS Attacks break other crimes where there is already a lot of case law supporting it.

  • rather than throw lawyers at the problem (when has that ever truly fixed a problem) why isnt there some AI DOS attack management system, even more curious why does the internet allow DOS attacks in this age of multi core 64 bit cpu's (even get multi core arm or atom cpu's). You would think after 40 odd years someone would have said "you know we better fix this problem". The internet has reached a stage were it is just as important a service as power and water thus it should not be able to be pulled down by
    • "The internet has reached a stage were it is just as important a service as power and water ..."

      No, it hasn't. It can't. If you need me to explain, you need to review 3rd grade biology. My daughter recently completed 3rd grade, but I'm pretty sure I don't trust any slashdotters around my daughter. So you'll need to find your own 3rd grader.

      doc

    • by pnewhook (788591)

      The internet has reached a stage were it is just as important a service as power and water

      Oh please. If the internet were removed it would be an inconvenience, nothing more. You can't say the same about power and water.

  • by JumperCable (673155) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @09:11PM (#32479616)

    I found an interesting article on someone tracking down some botnet masters by contacting a few of the infected users, getting a copy of the trojan and running it in a sandbox.

    http://www.bellua.com/bcs/asia07.materials/fredrik_soderblom.pdf [bellua.com] (PDF)

  • people use bots to "host boot" people from their Halo 3 session and get level up fast. There is even websites to sell these bots for couple dollars each.

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