As some cyber security experts had predicted, several websites associated with the Rio Olympic Games were hit by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks when the games began. The hacking collective Anonymous launched attacks on Brazilian government websites in protest of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and because the Brazilian government is “ignoring the voices of their own people.”
According to Hackread, the sites under attack included the official website of the federal government for the 2016 Games (brasil2016.gov.br), Portal of the State Government of Rio de Janeiro (rj.gov.br), Ministry of sports (esporte.gov.br), Brazil Olympic Committee COB (cob.org.br) and the official website of the Rio 2016 Olympics (rio2016.com).” Reportedly another wave of the attack “leaked the personal details of Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Minister of Sport, President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and three businessmen who Anonymous claims are involved in corruption.
Certainly, this kind of attack is not new or noteworthy. We’ve seen DDoS attacks like this many times before. Anonymous prides itself on DDoS attacks as political hacktivism; they attack high profile organizations as the means to a political end rather than to sell stolen data for profit. This is not the first, nor likely the last, major attack Anonymous will conduct.
DDoS Attacks on Olympic Athletes
In other Olympic DDoS news, even the website of the record gold-medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps was hit by a DDoS attack a couple of days ago (Phelps sells his own brand of swimwear and gear.) That attack was conducted by New World Hackers group, not for political reasons but to highlight the fact that some celebrity websites have gaping security holes. To which I say, uh, wouldn’t it have been more polite to just send an email to the site webmaster? Alas, such hacker groups are motivated by notoriety, not nicety. According to Newsweek, “The attacks also serve as publicity for BangStresser, the group’s powerful DDoS tool that works by flooding websites with so much traffic that it overloads them.”
Whenever DDoS attacks against such high-profile organizations or celebrities are reported, other organizations may be lulled into a false sense of security; they might think their website would never be targeted by DDoS hackers. But frankly, that’s just a wrong assumption. Nowadays it is so easy and inexpensive for even a novice hacker to DDoS a website, that any website is a potential target. Anyone with a vendetta against you (think of business competitors, angry customers, etc.) could subscribe to a DDoS for hire service to take down your website. But that’s not the only thing you have to worry about…
Attacks are seldom Olympic-sized. The other, more insidious—and far more common—form of DDoS attack is a sub-saturating, low volume attack that either goes unnoticed by IT security staff, or distracts IT security staff. These attacks often serve as a smokescreen for a more dangerous security breach; hackers can map your network to seek out vulnerabilities, or they can steal critical, sensitive data such as email addresses, log-ins or customer credit card information in a matter of minutes.
Unfortunately hackers don’t play fairly. So organizations must adopt a defensive position, which means stopping attack traffic before it enters the network. Enterprises should check with their Internet Service Provider or Hosting Provider to find out if they offer DDoS protection as a service; increasingly such companies do offer such service. Alternatively, enterprises can implement on-premises DDoS Protection Hardware to detect and block DDoS traffic.
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