Wednesday , 15 August 2018
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WikiLeaks attacked by OurMine: what are the lessons?

WikiLeaks suffered a cyber-attack earlier today from Saudi white hat collective OurMine, which posted a message on the site’s homepage saying, “It’s OurMine (security group). Don’t worry we are just testing your… blablalblab oh wait, this is not a security test! WikiLeaks remember when you challenged us to hack you?

“Anonymous, remember when you tried to dox us with fake information for attacking wikileaks?

“There we go! One group beat you all! #WikileaksHack let’s get it trending on twitter!”

The shop-window impact may have been embarrassing for WikiLeaks, but the attack itself was rudimentary, if effective in PR terms – with the key phrase being “trending on Twitter”.

According to a report on Hack News this morning, this was a DNS poisoning attack. OurMine didn’t target WikiLeaks’ data centre directly, but instead redirected DNS servers to a server controlled by the group. Also according to that report, the hosting company of the server in question has since suspended the account used in the attack.

Anonymous responded to OurMine’s goading by describing the attack as a “fake defacement”, having previously shared personal information of claimed members of OurMine.

This latest attack by OurMine – which last year compromised the social feeds of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai, among others – reveals an uncomfortable truth about digital security in a networked, socially sensitive world.

Such apparent security “breaches” (the cyber equivalent of graffiti tags), along with DDOS attacks that slow down or crash web servers, are often extremely low tech, but high value in news terms.

Ultimately, they may have little more impact in the long run than a selfie has in the world of portrait painting, but the challenge for security professionals is that investors’ fears, and changes in business confidence, can be felt just as quickly as a hashtag or the defacement of a website.

The more the social media world values short-termism and surface noise over depth and ‘signal’, the more effective these campaigns will be.

This makes them difficult to counter, except by ensuring that real domain security is absolute and that core services are protected, while trying to anticipate what attacks on the harder-to-police perimeter may have on customer services and public reputation.

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