Phill Hallam-Baker's Security Blog
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Boston.com / News / Nation / Saboteurs hit spam's blockers
Hiawatha Bray's article on the DDoS attacks against spam blacklists highlights a key problem with running Internet infrastructure on an amateur basis. It is one thing to provide a successful service, quite another to provide a service that can survive a determined attack.
The DDoS attacks against the spam blacklists were significant but nowhere near the level that critical infrastructure such as the DNS system or key Internet peering points such as MAE West suffer on a daily basis. The DNS system is attacked over 1000 times a day.
Spamcop's Haight is quoted as saying that he beleives that there may be a link between the attacks and organized crime but doe not have any evidence. There is abundant evidence of a link between spam and organized crime, mainly because the vast majority of spam scams are organized crime. Identity theft, advance fee fraud, etc. are all scams that require substantial organization. What we do not have is conclusive proof that the attacks were launched by spammers, although it appears that the same worm that was used to plant trojans for the DDoS attack has also been used to send spam.
The nexus between hacking and spam has always been close and has recently become much closer. Hackers sell their skills to spammers, helping them evade spam filter controls. Hackers also sell captured machines, email addresses and credit card numbers. Spam is the way you make hacking pay.
It is also interesting to note that Hiawatha is using the term 'blocklist' rather than blacklist. It appears that the blacklist maintainers have recently realized that their name has 'diversity' problems. I prefer to use the original name for a number of reasons. First, I think the name change is more about avoiding guilt by association than avoiding giving offense. Second the term blacklist does not have a racial origin, it comes from the Athenian practice of ostracism where the local population would vote to expel someone from the city. A black shard of pot (ostra) indicated that the victim was to be expelled.