Blurring the Boundaries Between Cybercrime and Politically Motivated Attacks



An emerging area of inquiry in security research is the blurring boundaries between cybercrime and other, more targeted forms of attack, and more specifically attacks that appear to be politically motivated. These attacks often take the form of targeted malware attacks that act as a form of surveillance in which sensitive documents and communications are captured from the targeted organizations and individuals or politically motivated Denial of Service attacks that aim to punish, disrupt and/or censor the ability of the targets to communicate to the world.

One of the themes that informed the “Shadows in the Cloud” report was the (potential) relationship between crimeware networks and cyber-espionage. The boundaries between the two appear to be blurring making issues of attribution increasingly more complex. It may also indicate that there is an emerging market for sensitive information and/or politically motivated attacks as crimeware networks seek to monetize such information and capabilities.

I explored this theme in a report on a case related to Kneber botnet documented by NetWitness in which a known ZeuS-based botnet, typically used to steal banking information and other credentials, was specifically targeting .mil and .gov email addresses with spearphishing attacks and then dropping a second piece of malware, an infostealer, on the compromised systems that uploaded sensitive documents to a drop zones in Belarus and Russia. This botnet was engaged in all sorts of other malicious activity associated with cybercrime.

When it comes to DDoS attacks a similar pattern is observed. Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks wrote a very interesting paper that analyzed politically motivated DDoS attacks (and is basically the inspiration for this blog post). The numerous DDoS attacks described in this paper are very interesting, some are punitive attacks others appear to be an effort to censor political speech (something I worked on at ONI in the past with Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and Belarus in 2006). In the paper Nazario dicusses the role that well known BlackEnergy-based botnets played in the DDoS attacks on Georgian websites during the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008. In a really amazing presentation Jose Nazario and Andre DiMino of Shadowserver document the attacks on Georgia. But what is most interesting, in this context, are the other unrelated targets that the same botnets also attacked. The RU-GE case is a great example of the blurring boundaries between crimeware networks, politically motivated attacks a censorship.

On a much smaller scale, I observed some recent attacks in which a BlackEnergy-based botnet attacked a variety of unrelated targets but eventually attacked political websites. The botnet was discovered while analyzing data captured from the computer of a Tibetan political figure. Due to the character of the network Greg Walton and I concluded that the attack was not targeted and was not related to the Tibet or to the political activities of the individual who was compromised. However, I continued to monitor the botnet.

The botnet had two command and control domain names 091809.ru and sexiland.ru both hosted on the same IP address (210.51.166.238, China Netcom). The command and control interface was not password protected and I was able to access it and determine the size of the botnet. According to the statistics in the interface, 091809.ru had 2044 active bots, an average of 2418 per hour and 8105 per day. In total the 091809.ru recorded 64346 infections. According to the statistics in the interface, sexiland.ru (210.51.166.238) had 3623 active bots, an average of 4869 per hour and 12749 per day. In total the sexiland.ru recorded 51813 infections. This is not a particularly large botnet at all, but the attackers could access at least 6000 bots at any given time.

This botnet attacked a variety of websites, however, four of them caught my attention.

1. bachuna.net

2009-12-15 05:00:01
flood http bachuna.net

The attackers began flooding bachuna.net on 2009-12-15. The attacks appear to relate to Ukrainian news stories (here, here, here and here) which broke around the same time as the attacks started involving a judge named Oleg Bachun and two competing websites bachuna.net and bachun.net. While the former was supportive of the judge the latter implicated him in illegal activities. Since I am relying on Google Translate it would be great of some Russia and Ukrainian speakers could provide a more in-depth assessment of what happened in the case as well as to the domain names involved as it appears from the reports that bachun.net was transfered to the owner of bachuna.net.

2. ingushetiyaru.org

2010-01-16 18:00:01 – 2010-01-20 06:00:02
flood http www.ingushetiyaru.org

Rights in Russia reported that “a website run by an opposition group in Ingushetia, Ingushetiyaru.org, suffered a DDoS attack after publishing comments critical of the region’s authorities.” Ingushetia is located near Chechnya and is a politically sensitive area. Ingushetiyaru.org reported the DDoS on their livejournal site and the broader implications in this article. This is not the first time there have DDoS attacks related to this region. Jeff Carr reported on another DDoS attack and implicated the RBN in the attack.

3. angusht.com

2010-01-22 12:00:01 – 2010-01-26 15:00:02
flood http angusht.com

This website, angusht.com, is also related to Ingushetia and reported DDoS attacks (here too) earlier this year. Several other related sites were also reported to be inacessible. The timing of the inaccessibility of the sites and the DDoS attacks on angusht.com and ingushetiyaru.org also correlate with reports of an explosion of a gas pipeline in Ingushetia.

4. kadyrov2012.com

2010-01-25 08:00:02 – 2010-01-27 02:00:01
flood http kadyrov2012.com

The website kadyrov2012.com was a satirical website claiming that the Russian-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was going to run in for president in Russia’s elections. Reuters reported the story on January 24 which correlate with the timing of the DDoS attacks.

These attacks are fairly small when compared with others and fly under the radar screen of most. They show that small scale attacks designed to censor opposing views occur with frequency against key websites and during critical time periods. It is clear that those engaged in political activities and those who vocally oppose repressive policies such as censorship may be subjected to a complex set of threats from targeted malware through to DDoS and not simply censorship in the form of Internet filtering. Finally, these attacks demonstrate that botnets involved with criminal activity are being used to conduct both political and apolitical DDoS attacks

Sites DDoS’d by this botnet:

flood http 195.216.243.39
flood http 208.64.123.225
flood http 213.155.12.120
flood http 217.107.35.35
flood http 217.17.158.55
flood http 217.20.163.4
flood http 62.149.24.2
flood http 72.20.34.140
flood http 80.93.54.57
flood http 82.146.43.3
flood http 89.108.126.2
flood http 94.198.51.216
flood http angusht.com
flood http angusht.com index.php
flood http angusht.com personal subscribe subscr_edit.php
flood http antiddos.org
flood http asterios.tm
flood http asterios.tm index.php
flood http asteriys.com index.php?f=stat&act=online&server=0
flood http attackers.ru
flood http bachuna.net
flood http bankunet.com
flood http barbars.ru
flood http blud.net
flood http carderfix.ru
flood http carder.info
flood http carder.info index.php
flood http carder.info,l2.theonline.ru
flood http carder.su
flood http carder.su showgroups.php
flood http ddef.ru
flood http do-finance.com
flood http fan-age.ru,l2.exsade.com,forum.exsade.com,final-zone.ru
flood http filebase.to
flood http forum.notebook812.ru
flood http forum.timesgame.ru,timesgame.ru
flood http internet-guard.net index.php
flood http kadyrov2012.com
flood http kadyrov2012.com
flood http kadyrov2012.com index
flood http karyatour.com.ua
flood http l2jfree.com
flood http la2.100nt.ru
flood http la2.timesgame.ru
flood http lineage.cn.km.ua
flood http ll2.su
flood http meridian-express.ru
flood http modcam.ru
flood http notebook812.ru
flood http notebook812.ru
flood http ohah.ru
flood http ohah.ru index.php
flood http planety-hackeram.ru
flood http portal27.ru
flood http pupsa.net
flood http rodi.ru
flood http rosban.su
flood http sever.ru
flood http slineage.ru
flood http smsdeal.ru index.php
flood http takwap.ru
flood http takwap.ru 111 XXX_DETKA
flood http takwap.ru 157 xxx ohah.ru
flood http teamsteam.ru
flood http vpotoke.com
flood http wapfan.org index.php
flood http wow.cln.ru
flood http www.2simtv.ru index.php
flood http www.angusht.com index.php
flood http www.art-taxi.ru
flood http www.glazey.ru
flood http www.ingushetiyaru.org
flood http www.notebook812.ru
flood http www.prado-club.su
flood http www.prado-club.su forum
flood http www.ripoffreport.com
flood http xaknet.ru
flood icmp forum.antichat.ru
flood syn www.ripoffreport.com 80

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