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Industry group rallies to fight bots, protect the cloud

Distributed denial-of-service attacks against financial firms and other industries have been mounting, so last week the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) announced it is establishing the Anti-Bot Working Group to help fight this threat.

The CSA, the organization formed to set standards for best practices and security in cloud-based services, has set up the Anti-Bot Working Group because crippling DDoS attacks launched against business websites and networks often originate within hosting facilities that have been compromised. It happens when attackers remotely take over the hosting provider’s servers in order to direct streams of destructive traffic at a target.

shelbi rombout

Shelbi Rombout

Shelbi Rombout, senior vice president and partnership executive for cybersecurity at US Bank, is chairing the CSA’s Anti-Bot Working Group, and she describes it as an effort to raise awareness about the problem and push for ways to prevent attacks from occurring through cloud-based facilities.

”Ten thousand servers can generate (a large) amount of traffic,” said Rombout, explaining how the compromise of a hosting facility’s customers’ computers can be exploited by attackers to generate hundreds of megabytes of attack traffic. Botnets of server-based attack traffic end up being much more intense than the botnet-based attacks from compromised desktops.

Hosting clouds targeted

This growing threat became very public last October as unknown DDoS attackers struck bank after bank. At the time, there was much speculation as to whether these were politically motivated attacks or simply cybercrime-related to put financial institutions off guard. In any event, it has become clear that most of the more powerful DDoS attack streams originate from hosting facilities where servers are compromised.

Rombout said the banks, healthcare firms, telecommunications firms, and academia have been meeting to analyze some of these attacks and identify the source. Often, the trail seems to lead to the smaller cloud hosting facilities. The goal of the CSA’s Anti-Bot Working Group is to carry out research related to botnets and publish what’s being called “Fundamental Anti-Bot Practices for Cloud Providers” and an “Anti-Bot Toolkit Repository for Cloud Providers.”

It would include ideas such as quarantining compromised servers identified as part of a botnet, and making available some communications method at the hosting facility to receive information that DDoS attacks were being identified by outside sources. Eventually, a process of certifying cloud providers that follow CSA best practices could be established.

Rombout adds that there are also other anti-bot efforts ongoing, including the financial industry group BITS which is also concerned about this threat.

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