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The CIA, Paypal and other websites under persistent attacks

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February 1, 2010

According to various reports from Internet security experts, the CIA, PayPal and many other similar organizations and companies are under what looks like unexplained and repeated attacks that are literally bombarding their Web sites with many millions of server-intensive HTTP requests. The attacks have been ongoing for the past several days now and appear to be increasing at a fast rate.

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This large flood of requests is made over the Web sites' SSL port, causing them to consume a lot more server resources than normal connections, according to researchers at Shadow Server Foundation, a volunteer Internet security collective.

The problem appears to be caused by recent changes made to a mysterious bot network called Pushdo.

Shadow Server has identified no less than 316 websites that are direct recipients of the SSL assault on the targeted servers. In addition to cia.gov and paypal.com, other sites include yahoo.com, godaddy.com, americanexpress.com and even sans.org.

Shadow Server' Steven Adair says "you are likely seeing an unexpected increase in traffic by several million hits spread out across several hundred thousand IP addresses and all at the same time. This might be a big deal if you're used to only getting a few hundred or thousands of hits a day or you don't have unlimited bandwidth."

Internet security experts even say they aren't sure what targeted sites can do to lessen the attacks. Changing IP addresses may provide a temporary reprieve, however, although it may not be the best solution, either temporary or permanent.

It isn't clear at this time why Pushdo would have unleashed those malware bots. Infected computers appear to initiate the SSL connections, along with a bit of crap, disconnect and then repeat the cycle over and over. They don't request any resources from the website or do anything else, however.

"But we do find it difficult to believe that this much activity would be used to make the bots "blend in" with normal Internet traffic however, while at the same time it doesn't quite look like a DoS (denial of service) either, so this is really confusing to us," Adair wrote.

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Source: The Shadow Server Foundation.

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