Shared from the 4/26/2018 The State eEdition

Police shut biggest hackers-for-hire platform in world

WASHINGTON

The worldwide cyberattack-for-hire business flourishes. Got a grievance against a retailer? A former spouse bugging you? Plenty of online thugs will take astonishingly small sums of money and launch a cyberattack on your behalf.

The hackers-for-hire flood a website with malicious traffic and knock it off line.

Fed up with such malignant attacks, law enforcement officials around the world took action, announcing Wednesday that authorities in 12 countries, including the United States, had seized servers and arrested four top administrators of webstresser.org, crippling what is believed to be the most successful of the cyberattack-for-hire platforms.

The high-tech crime unit of Dutch police and the U.K.’s National Crime Agency led the investigation, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

More than 136,000 people had signed up for webstresser.org ’s attack services, and the online platform’s hackers launched more than 4 million Direct Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in recent years, Europol said. In a DDoS attack, hackers overwhelm a targeted website or network with traffic, causing it to crash.

“The orchestrated attacks targeted critical online services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces, as well as victims in the gaming industry,” Europol said in a statement.

“The damage of these attacks is substantial,” the Dutch police said in a statement on Reddit, a discussion website. “Victims are out of business for a period of time.”

Researchers said the takedown of webstresser.org underscores how services offered by criminal hackers have filtered from the underground dark web, where criminals and anarchists lurk, to platforms that appear legitimate. And they have tens of thousands of clients, some with petty grievances.

“People are doing DDoS attacks for strange reasons, like if they lose in an online game, they attack the server. Or if they just don’t like a football team, they DDoS that football team’s website,” said Ben Herzberg, director of threat research at Imperva, a Redwood Shores, California, company that defends clients from such attacks.

“You give people cheap weapons and anonymity, and they know that they will probably not get caught, and you get mayhem,” Herzberg said.

Researchers widely believe that webstresser.org is the largest hacker-for-hire platform.

Tim Johnson, 202-288-9536, @timjohnson4

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