DDoS-for-Hire


4
Feb 20

Booter Boss Busted By Bacon Pizza Buy

A Pennsylvania man who operated one of the Internet’s longest-running online attack-for-hire or “booter” services was sentenced to five years probation today. While the young man’s punishment was heavily tempered by his current poor health, the defendant’s dietary choices may have contributed to both his capture and the lenient sentencing: Investigators say the onetime booter boss’s identity became clear after he ordered a bacon and chicken pizza delivered to his home using the same email address he originally used to register his criminal attack service.

David Bukoski, 24, of Hanover Township, Pa., pleaded guilty to running Quantum Stresser, an attack-for-hire business — also known as a “booter” or “stresser” service — that helped paying customers launch tens of thousands of digital sieges capable of knocking Web sites and entire network providers offline.

The landing page for the Quantum Stresser attack-for-hire service.

Investigators say Bukoski’s booter service was among the longest running services targeted by the FBI, operating since at least 2012. The government says Quantum Stresser had more than 80,000 customer subscriptions, and that during 2018 the service was used to conduct approximately 50,000 actual or attempted attacks targeting people and networks worldwide.

The Quantum Stresser Web site — quantumstress[.]net — was among 15 booter services that were seized by U.S. and international authorities in December 2018 as part of a coordinated takedown targeting attack-for-hire services.

Federal prosecutors in Alaska said search warrants served on the email accounts Bukoski used in conjunction with Quantum Stresser revealed that he was banned from several companies he used to advertise and accept payments for the booter service.

The government’s sentencing memorandum says Bukoski’s replies demanding to know the reasons for the suspensions were instrumental in discovering his real name.  FBI agents were able to zero in on Bukoski’s real-life location after a review of his email account showed a receipt from May 2018 in which he’d gone online and ordered a handmade pan pizza to be delivered to his home address.

When an online pizza delivery order brings FBI agents to raid your home.

While getting busted on account of ordering a pizza online might sound like a bone-headed or rookie mistake for a cybercriminal, it is hardly unprecedented. In 2012 KrebsOnSecurity wrote about the plight of Yuriy “Jtk” Konovalenko, a then 30-year-old Ukrainian man who was rounded up as part of an international crackdown on an organized crime gang that used the ZeuS malware to steal tens of millions of dollars from companies and consumers. In that case, Konovalenko ultimately unmasked himself because he used his Internet connection to order the delivery of a “Veggie Roma” pizza to his apartment in the United Kingdom. Continue reading →


20
Jan 20

DDoS Mitigation Firm Founder Admits to DDoS

A Georgia man who co-founded a service designed to protect companies from crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks has pleaded to paying a DDoS-for-hire service to launch attacks against others.

Tucker Preston, 22, of Macon, Ga., pleaded guilty last week in a New Jersey court to one count of damaging protected computers by transmission of a program, code or command. DDoS attacks involve flooding a target Web site with so much junk Internet traffic that it can no longer accommodate legitimate visitors.

Preston was featured in the 2016 KrebsOnSecurity story DDoS Mitigation Firm Has History of Hijacks, which detailed how the company he co-founded — BackConnect Security LLC — had developed the unusual habit of hijacking Internet address space it didn’t own in a bid to protect clients from attacks.

Preston’s guilty plea agreement (PDF) doesn’t specify who he admitted attacking, and refers to the target only as “Victim 1.” Preston declined to comment for this story.

But that 2016 story came on the heels of an exclusive about the hacking of vDOS — at the time the world’s most popular and powerful DDoS-for-hire service.

KrebsOnSecurity exposed the co-administrators of vDOS and obtained a copy of the entire vDOS database, including its registered users and a record of the attacks those users had paid vDOS to launch on their behalf.

Those records showed that several email addresses tied to a domain registered by then 19-year-old Preston had been used to create a vDOS account that was active in attacking a large number of targets, including multiple assaults on networks belonging to the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

The 2016 story on BackConnect featured an interview with a former system administrator at FSF who said the nonprofit briefly considered working with BackConnect, and that the attacks started almost immediately after FSF told the company’s owners they would need to look elsewhere for DDoS protection.

Perhaps having fun at the expense of the FSF was something of a meme that the accused and his associates seized upon, but it’s interesting to note that the name of the FSF’s founder — Richard Stallmanwas used as a nickname by the co-author of Mirai, a potent malware strain that was created for the purposes of enslaving Internet of Things (IoT) devices for large-scale DDoS attacks.

Ultimately, it was the Mirai co-author’s use of this nickname that contributed to him getting caught, arrested, and prosecuted for releasing Mirai and its source code (as well as for facilitating a record-setting DDoS against this Web site in 2016).

According to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department, the count to which he pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. He is slated to be sentenced on May 7.


20
Nov 19

DDoS-for-Hire Boss Gets 13 Months Jail Time

A 21-year-old Illinois man was sentenced last week to 13 months in prison for running multiple DDoS-for-hire services that launched millions of attacks over several years. This individual’s sentencing comes more than five years after KrebsOnSecurity interviewed both the defendant and his father and urged the latter to take a more active interest in his son’s online activities.

A screenshot of databooter[.]com, circa 2017. Image: Cisco Talos.

The jail time was handed down to Sergiy P. Usatyuk of Orland Park, Ill., who pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to cause damage to Internet-connected computers and owning, administering and supporting illegal “booter” or “stresser” services designed to knock Web sites offline, including exostress[.]in, quezstresser[.]com, betabooter[.]com, databooter[.]com, instabooter[.]com, polystress[.]com and zstress[.]net.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, in just the first 13 months of the 27-month long conspiracy, Usatyuk’s booter users ordered approximately 3,829,812 DDoS attacks. As of September 12, 2017, ExoStresser advertised on its website that this one booter service had launched 1,367,610 DDoS attacks, and caused targets to suffer 109,186.4 hours of network downtime (-4,549 days).

Usatyuk — operating under the hacker aliases “Andrew Quez” and “Brian Martinez,” among others — admitted developing, controlling and operating the aforementioned booter services from around August 2015 through November 2017. But Usatyuk’s involvement in the DDoS-for-hire space very much predates that period.

In February 2014, KrebsOnSecurity reached out to Usatyuk’s father Peter Usatyuk, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I did so because a brief amount of sleuthing on Hackforums[.]net revealed that his then 15-year-old son Sergiy — who at the time went by the nicknames “Rasbora” and “Mr. Booter Master” — was heavily involved in helping to launch crippling DDoS attacks.

I phoned Usatyuk the elder because Sergiy’s alter egos had been posting evidence on Hackforums and elsewhere that he’d just hit KrebsOnSecurity.com with a 200 Gbps DDoS attack, which was then considered a fairly impressive DDoS assault.

“I am writing you after our phone conversation just to confirm that you may call evening time/weekend to talk to my son Sergio regarding to your reasons,” Peter Usatyuk wrote in an email to this author on Feb. 13, 2014. “I also have [a] major concern what my 15 yo son [is] doing. If you think that is any kind of illegal work, please, let me know.” Continue reading →


28
Feb 19

Booter Boss Interviewed in 2014 Pleads Guilty

A 20-year-old Illinois man has pleaded guilty to running multiple DDoS-for-hire services that launched millions of attacks over several years. The plea deal comes almost exactly five years after KrebsOnSecurity interviewed both the admitted felon and his father and urged the latter to take a more active interest in his son’s online activities.

Sergiy P. Usatyuk of Orland Park, Ill. pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to cause damage to Internet-connected computers and for his role in owning, administering and supporting illegal “booter” or “stresser” services designed to knock Web sites offline, including exostress[.]in, quezstresser[.]com, betabooter[.]com, databooter[.]com, instabooter[.]com, polystress[.]com and zstress[.]net.

Some of Rasbora’s posts on hackforums[.]net prior to our phone call in 2014. Most of these have since been deleted.

A U.S. Justice Department press release on the guilty plea says Usatyuk — operating under the hacker aliases “Andrew Quez” and “Brian Martinez” — admitted developing, controlling and operating the aforementioned booter services from around August 2015 through November 2017. But Usatyuk’s involvement in the DDoS-for-hire space very much predates that period.

In February 2014, KrebsOnSecurity reached out to Usatyuk’s father Peter Usatyuk, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I did so because a brief amount of sleuthing on Hackforums[.]net revealed that his then 15-year-old son Sergiy — who at the time went by the nicknames “Rasbora” and “Mr. Booter Master”  — was heavily involved in helping to launch crippling DDoS attacks.

I phoned Usatyuk the elder because Sergiy’s alter egos had been posting evidence on Hackforums and elsewhere that he’d just hit KrebsOnSecurity.com with a 200 Gbps DDoS attack, which was then considered a fairly impressive DDoS assault.

“I am writing you after our phone conversation just to confirm that you may call evening time/weekend to talk to my son Sergio regarding to your reasons,” Peter Usatyuk wrote in an email to this author on Feb. 13, 2014. “I also have [a] major concern what my 15 yo son [is] doing. If you think that is any kind of illegal work, please, let me know.” Continue reading →


1
Feb 19

250 Webstresser Users to Face Legal Action

More than 250 customers of a popular and powerful online attack-for-hire service that was dismantled by authorities in 2018 are expected to face legal action for the damage they caused, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

In April 2018, investigators in the U.S., U.K. and the Netherlands took down attack-for-hire service WebStresser[.]org and arrested its alleged administrators. Prior to the takedown, the service had more than 151,000 registered users and was responsible for launching some four million attacks over three years. Now, those same authorities are targeting people who paid the service to conduct attacks.

Webstresser.org (formerly Webstresser.co), as it appeared in 2017.

In the United Kingdom, police have seized more than 60 personal electronic devices from a number of Webstresser users, and some 250 customers of the service will soon face legal action, Europol said in a statement released this week.

“Size does not matter – all levels of users are under the radar of law enforcement, be it a gamer booting out the competition out of a game, or a high-level hacker carrying out DDoS attacks against commercial targets for financial gain,” Europol officials warned.

The focus on Webstresser’s customers is the latest phase of “Operation Power Off,” which targeted one of the most active services for launching point-and-click distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. WebStresser was one of many so-called “booter” or “stresser” services — virtual hired muscle that even completely unskilled users can rent to knock nearly any website or Internet user offline.

Operation Power Off is part of a broader law enforcement effort to disrupt the burgeoning booter service industry and to weaken demand for such services. In December, authorities in the United States filed criminal charges against three men accused of running booter services, and orchestrated a coordinated takedown of 15 different booter sites.

This seizure notice appeared on the homepage of more than a dozen popular “booter” or “stresser” DDoS-for-hire Web sites in December 2018.

Continue reading →


14
Jan 19

Courts Hand Down Hard Jail Time for DDoS

Seldom do people responsible for launching crippling cyberattacks face justice, but increasingly courts around the world are making examples of the few who do get busted for such crimes. On Friday, a 34-year-old Connecticut man received a whopping 10-year prison sentence for carrying out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against a number of hospitals in 2014. Also last week, a 30-year-old in the United Kingdom was sentenced to 32 months in jail for using an army of hacked devices to crash large portions of Liberia’s Internet access in 2016.

Daniel Kaye. Photo: National Crime Agency

Daniel Kaye, an Israel-U.K. dual citizen, admitted attacking an African phone company in 2016, and to inadvertently knocking out Internet access for much of the country in the process. Kaye launched the attack using a botnet powered by Mirai, a malware strain that enslaves hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices like poorly-secured Internet routers and Web-based cameras for use in large-scale cyberattacks.

According to court testimony, Kaye was hired in 2015 to attack Lonestar, Liberia’s top mobile phone and Internet provider. Kaye pocketed $10,000 for the attack, which was alleged to have been paid for by an individual working for Cellcom, Lonestar’s competitor in the region. As reported by Israeli news outlet Haaretz, Kaye testified that the attack was ordered by the CEO of Cellcom Liberia.

In February 2017, authorities in the United Kingdom arrested Kaye and extradited him to Germany to face charges of knocking more than 900,000 Germans offline in a Mirai attack in November 2016. Prosecutors withheld Kaye’s full name throughout the trial in Germany, but in July 2017 KrebsOnSecurity published findings that named Kaye as the likely culprit. Kaye ultimately received a suspended sentence for the attack in Germany, and was sent back to the U.K. to face charges there.

The July 2017 KrebsOnSecurity investigation also linked Kaye to the development and sale of a sophisticated piece of spyware named GovRAT, which is documented to have been used in numerous cyber espionage campaigns against governments, financial institutions, defense contractors and more than 100 corporations.

The U.K.’s National Crime Agency called Kaye perhaps the most significant cyber criminal yet caught in Britain. A report on the trial from the BBC says Kaye wept as he was taken away to jail. Continue reading →


20
Dec 18

Feds Charge Three in Mass Seizure of Attack-for-hire Services

Authorities in the United States this week brought criminal hacking charges against three men as part of an unprecedented, international takedown targeting 15 different “booter” or “stresser” sites — attack-for-hire services that helped paying customers launch tens of thousands of digital sieges capable of knocking Web sites and entire network providers offline.

The seizure notice appearing on the homepage this week of more than a dozen popular “booter” or “stresser” DDoS-for-hire Web sites.

As of Thursday morning, a seizure notice featuring the seals of the U.S. Justice Department, FBI and other law enforcement agencies appeared on the booter sites, including:

anonsecurityteam[.]com
booter[.]ninja
bullstresser[.]net
critical-boot[.]com
defcon[.]pro
defianceprotocol[.]com
downthem[.]org
layer7-stresser[.]xyz
netstress[.]org
quantumstress[.]net
ragebooter[.]com
request[.]rip
str3ssed[.]me
torsecurityteam[.]org
vbooter[.]org

Booter sites are dangerous because they help lower the barriers to cybercrime, allowing even complete novices to launch sophisticated and crippling attacks with the click of a button.

Cameron Schroeder, assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, called this week’s action the largest simultaneous seizure of booter service domains ever.

“This is the biggest action U.S. law enforcement has taken against booter services, and we’re doing this in cooperation with a large number of industry and foreign law enforcement partners,” Schroeder said.

Booter services are typically advertised through a variety of methods, including Dark Web forums, chat platforms and even youtube.com. They accept payment via PayPal, Google Wallet, and/or cryptocurrencies, and subscriptions can range in price from just a few dollars to several hundred per month. The services are priced according to the volume of traffic to be hurled at the target, the duration of each attack, and the number of concurrent attacks allowed.

Purveyors of stressers and booters claim they are not responsible for how customers use their services, and that they aren’t breaking the law because — like most security tools — stresser services can be used for good or bad purposes. For example, all of the above-mentioned booter sites contained wordy “terms of use” agreements that required customers to agree they will only stress-test their own networks — and that they won’t use the service to attack others.

But experts say today’s announcement shreds that virtual fig leaf, and marks several important strategic shifts in how authorities intend to prosecute booter service operators going forward.

“This action is predicated on the fact that running a booter service itself is illegal,” said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, a security firm based in New York City. “That’s a slightly different legal argument than has been made in the past against other booter owners.”

For one thing, the booter services targeted in this takedown advertised the ability to “resolve” or determine the true Internet address of a target. This is especially useful for customers seeking to harm targets whose real address is hidden behind mitigation services like Cloudflare (ironically, the same provider used by some of these booter services to withstand attacks by competing booter services).

Some resolvers also allowed customers to determine the Internet address of a target using nothing more than the target’s Skype username.

“You don’t need to use a Skype resolver just to attack yourself,” assistant U.S. Attorney Schroeder said. “Clearly, the people running these booter services know their services are being used not by people targeting their own infrastructure, and have built in capabilities that specifically allow customers to attack others.”

Another important distinction between this week’s coordinated action and past booter site takedowns was that the government actually tested each service it dismantled to validate claims about attack firepower and to learn more about how each service conducted assaults.

In a complaint unsealed today, the Justice Department said that although FBI agents identified at least 60 different booter services operating between June and December 2018, they discovered not all were fully operational and capable of launching attacks. Hence, the 15 services seized this week represent those that the government was able to use to conduct successful, high-volume attacks against their own test sites.

“This is intended to send a very clear message to all booter operators that they’re not going to be allowed to operate openly anymore,” Nixon said. “The message is that if you’re running a DDoS-for-hire service that can attack an Internet address in such a way that the FBI can purchase an attack against their own test servers, you’re probably going to get in trouble.” Continue reading →


7
Dec 18

Bomb Threat Hoaxer, DDos Boss Gets 3 Years

The ringleader of a gang of cyber hooligans that made bomb threats against hundreds of schools and launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Web sites — including KrebsOnSecurity on multiple occasions — has been sentenced to three years in a U.K. prison, and faces the possibility of additional charges from U.S.-based law enforcement officials.

George Duke-Cohan, 19, caused a massive uproar earlier this year after communicating a series of bomb threats against 1,700 schools, colleges and universities across the United Kingdom. But shortly after being arrested on suspicion of the threats and released, Duke-Cohan was back at it again — this time expanding his threats to include schools in the United States.

One of many tweets from the attention-starved Apophis Squad, which launched multiple DDoS attacks against KrebsOnsecurity over the past few months.

At the same time, authorities in the U.K. and U.S. discovered that Duke-Cohan was responsible for falsely reporting the hijack of a plane bound for the United States. That flight, which had almost 300 passengers on board, was later quarantined in San Francisco pending a full security check.

Duke-Cohan was part of an attention-seeking group of ne’er-do-wells who called themselves the Apophis Squad. Duke-Cohan and his crew modeled themselves after the actions of the Lizard Squad, another group of e-fame seeking online hoodlums who also ran a DDoS-for-hire service, called in bomb threats to airlines, DDoSed this Web site repeatedly and whose members were nearly all subsequently arrested and charged with various cybercrimes.

Indeed, until recently the Apophis Squad’s Web site and DDoS-for-hire service was hosted on the same Internet server used by a handful of other domains that were tied to the Lizard Squad. Continue reading →


26
Oct 18

Mirai Co-Author Gets 6 Months Confinement, $8.6M in Fines for Rutgers Attacks

The convicted co-author of the highly disruptive Mirai botnet malware strain has been sentenced to 2,500 hours of community service, six months home confinement, and ordered to pay $8.6 million in restitution for repeatedly using Mirai to take down Internet services at Rutgers University, his alma mater.

Paras Jha, in an undated photo from his former LinkedIn profile.

Paras Jha, a 22-year-old computer whiz from Fanwood, N.J., was studying computer science at Rutgers when he developed Mirai along with two other convicted co-conspirators. According to sentencing memo submitted by government prosecutors, in his freshman and sophomore years at Rutgers Jha used a collection of hacked devices to launch at least four distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the university’s networks.

Jha told investigators he carried out the attacks not for profit but purely for personal, juvenile reasons: “He reveled in the uproar caused by the first attack, which he launched to delay upper-classmen registration for an advanced computer science class he wanted to take,” the government’s sentencing memo stated. “The second attack was launched to delay his calculus exam. The last two attacks were motivated in part by the publicity and outrage” his previous attacks had generated. Jha would later drop out of Rutgers after struggling academically.

In January 2017, almost a year before Jha’s arrest and guilty plea, KrebsOnSecurity identified Jha as the likely co-author of Mirai — which sprang to notoriety after a record-smashing Sept. 2016 attack that sidelined this Web site for nearly four days.

That story posited that Jha, operating under the pseudonyms “Ogmemes” and “OgRichardStallman,” gave interviews with a local paper in which he taunted Rutgers and encouraged the school to consider purchasing some kind of DDoS protection service to ward off future attacks. At the time, Jha was president and co-founder of ProTraf Solutions, a DDoS mitigation firm that provided just such a service. Continue reading →


7
May 18

Study: Attack on KrebsOnSecurity Cost IoT Device Owners $323K

A monster distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) against KrebsOnSecurity.com in 2016 knocked this site offline for nearly four days. The attack was executed through a network of hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices such as Internet routers, security cameras and digital video recorders. A new study that tries to measure the direct cost of that one attack for IoT device users whose machines were swept up in the assault found that it may have cost device owners a total of $323,973.75 in excess power and added bandwidth consumption.

My bad.

But really, none of it was my fault at all. It was mostly the fault of IoT makers for shipping cheap, poorly designed products (insecure by default), and the fault of customers who bought these IoT things and plugged them onto the Internet without changing the things’ factory settings (passwords at least.)

The botnet that hit my site in Sept. 2016 was powered by the first version of Mirai, a malware strain that wriggles into dozens of IoT devices left exposed to the Internet and running with factory-default settings and passwords. Systems infected with Mirai are forced to scan the Internet for other vulnerable IoT devices, but they’re just as often used to help launch punishing DDoS attacks.

By the time of the first Mirai attack on this site, the young masterminds behind Mirai had already enslaved more than 600,000 IoT devices for their DDoS armies. But according to an interview with one of the admitted and convicted co-authors of Mirai, the part of their botnet that pounded my site was a mere slice of firepower they’d sold for a few hundred bucks to a willing buyer. The attack army sold to this ne’er-do-well harnessed the power of just 24,000 Mirai-infected systems (mostly security cameras and DVRs, but some routers, too).

These 24,000 Mirai devices clobbered my site for several days with data blasts of up to 620 Gbps. The attack was so bad that my pro-bono DDoS protection provider at the time — Akamai — had to let me go because the data firehose pointed at my site was starting to cause real pain for their paying customers. Akamai later estimated that the cost of maintaining protection against my site in the face of that onslaught would have run into the millions of dollars.

We’re getting better at figuring out the financial costs of DDoS attacks to the victims (5, 6 or 7 -digit dollar losses) and to the perpetrators (zero to hundreds of dollars). According to a report released this year by DDoS mitigation giant NETSCOUT Arbor, fifty-six percent of organizations last year experienced a financial impact from DDoS attacks for between $10,000 and $100,000, almost double the proportion from 2016.

But what if there were also a way to work out the cost of these attacks to the users of the IoT devices which get snared by DDos botnets like Mirai? That’s what researchers at University of California, Berkeley School of Information sought to determine in their new paper, “rIoT: Quantifying Consumer Costs of Insecure Internet of Things Devices.

If we accept the UC Berkeley team’s assumptions about costs borne by hacked IoT device users (more on that in a bit), the total cost of added bandwidth and energy consumption from the botnet that hit my site came to $323,973.95. This may sound like a lot of money, but remember that broken down among 24,000 attacking drones the per-device cost comes to just $13.50.

So let’s review: The attacker who wanted to clobber my site paid a few hundred dollars to rent a tiny portion of a much bigger Mirai crime machine. That attack would likely have cost millions of dollars to mitigate. The consumers in possession of the IoT devices that did the attacking probably realized a few dollars in losses each, if that. Perhaps forever unmeasured are the many Web sites and Internet users whose connection speeds are often collateral damage in DDoS attacks.

Image: UC Berkeley.

Continue reading →