Cyber Attacks a Complicated Affair

Chris Green  |  2009-07-15 09:04
According to a report commissioned by APCERT, the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team, and carried out by Vietnamese company Bkis Security, the recent cyber attacks on U.S. and South Korean government websites were a sophisticated effort utilizing equipment in more than 70 countries.

However, while many agree the attacks were probably the work of hackers sympathetic towards North Korea, some experts have suggested that the North still lacks some of the critical expertise to conduct the attacks by itself.

A report released in Tuesday’s USA Today explains that 1 master server based in the UK, 8 other control servers around the world, and 166,908 so-called “botted” computers in 74 countries were utilized in the attacks.

A “botted” computer is one that has been unwittingly given over to the activities of hackers, who are often engaged in illegal activity.

The report quotes Bkis Security research director Nguyen Minh Duc as saying, “Having located the attacking source in the UK, we believe it is completely possible to find the hacker.”

One man who questions whether the attacks could have been the work of North Korea is Jayson E. Street of security firm Netraguard. He claims, according to the report, that "North Korea doesn't have the sophistication to conduct an attack like this."

Given the nature of the attack, and most notably the targets, this inevitably shifts the focus of blame onto North Korean sympathizers in the high-tech savvy South. One complicating factor is that some of the computers used in the attacks have apparently been sent further instructions causing them to, as the USA Today report puts it, “self destruct.” This process of self-wiping makes it impossible to analyze the computers after the fact.

Finally, analytical reports also note that the funding required to carry out the attacks, not much more than $50,000, makes such an undertaking “doable not just by any government, but also by any Tony Soprano,” according to data security specialist Imperva’s chief technology officer Amichai Shulman.
 
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