Behind the Akamai DDoS Attack
A bit late (my apologies) but it’s interesting to look at the recent Distributed Denial of Service attack on Akamai, an Internet infrastructure provider.
The attack blocked nearly all access to Apple Computer, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo’s Web sites for two hours on Tuesday by bringing down Akamai’s domain name system, or DNS, servers. These servers translate domain names — www.microsoft.com — into numerical addresses. The attack was made possible by harnessing a bot net — thousands of compromised Internet-connected computers, or zombies, which are instructed to flood the DNS servers with data at the same time. This is called Distributed Denial of Service, of DDoS.
But there’s still something of a mystery here: How was the attacker able to make the DDoS attack so surgical, taking out just the main Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple sites? As CXOtoday points out, Akamai is an obvious target, since “it has created the world’s largest and most widely used distributed computing platform, with more than 14,000 servers in 1,100 networks in 65 countries.”
Indeed, before Akamai admitted the nature and scale of the attack there was some skepticism that this could have been a DDoS: ComputerWorld quoted security expert Bruce Schneier as saying: “My guess is that it’s some kind of an internal failure within Akamai, or maybe a targeted attack against them by someone with insider knowledge and access.”
The Ukrainian Computer Crime Research Center says it believes the attack was a demonstration of capabilities by a Russian hacker network. As evidence they point to an earlier posting by Dmitri Kramarenko, which describes a recent offer by a Russian hacker to “pull any website, say Microsoft” for not less than $80,000. The story appeared four days before the DDoS attack.