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PlayStation Network Down Indefinitely – Anonymous Strikes Again!

Filed Under (Anonymous, Hacking, Security, Technology, WikiLeaks) by admin on 26-04-2011

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Sony’s PlayStation Network once again has been hit with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack believed to be perpetrated by the underground hack society known as Anonymous. Sony has decided to pull the plug on its PlayStation Network after it believes sensitive user information may have been leaked in the attack. According to reports Anonymous does claim responsibility for the DDoS attack but is adamant that the taking of sensitive customer data did not come under its direction. Since Anonymous is made up of individual citizens from all over the world it is possible some or one may have acted on their own accord.
What’s a DDoS Attack
A DDoS attack is essentially hundreds or thousands of users generating thousands or more requests each to a single web site or web service. Due to the cumulative enormity of such an attack the site or service becomes overwhelmed with the false requests and is unable to properly service the real requests which effectively brings the service or site to a crawl and makes it unusable. DDoS is a popular method of attack used as a form of civil disobedience and has become a very effective tool for the underground community to show its displeasure with abuse or injustices.
Who is Anonymous?
Anonymous is a massive underground movement of individuals who have organized themselves shortly after WikiLeaks came under intense scrutiny by the US and Swedish governments for releasing sensitive US government cables believed to be leaked by then Pfc. Bradley Manning. Since the leaks, Manning has been held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, is under constant surveillance, is not allowed to exercise and has not been allowed a pillow or bed sheets despite not having been convicted of a crime. Anonymous has shown strong support for WikiLeaks by using DDoS attacks to shut down many credit card and other online payment vendors who have stopped servicing WikiLeaks, thus preventing WikiLeaks from collecting contributions and donations made online using these services.
Operation Payback – Sony and Anonymous
Anonymous’ battles with Sony began shortly after Sony brought lawsuits against PS3 hackers forcing them never to hack a Playstation even though they legally owned the hardware. This has been an ongoing licensing battle for years between hardware vendors and power users who want to improve their systems much like a car owner could upgrade parts in his/her car without getting sued by the manufacturer. Anonymous created a manifesto called Operation Payback – Sony announcing its stance on Sony’s actions and what it intends to do to make Sony pay. This is the Anonymous video associated with Operation Payback – Sony.

Stay tuned for more….

The Cloud is Falling!!!!!

Filed Under (Cloud, Hacking, Privacy, Security, Technology) by admin on 25-04-2011

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So this week I would like to talk about cloud computing and the mishap last week that led to widespread web outages all because Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) had a networking glitch (haha) that sent their storage servers offline effectively dragging down all of the sites it was hosting (nearly 70 by some estimates) including the New York Times, Foursquare, Propublica, Reddit, Quora, Hootsuite and many more.
Infrastructure to the Cloud…
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an infrastructure guy. The 5 years I spent as CTO at The Money Store was mostly spent upgrading their IT infrastructure to handle expansion from 1 office to over 300. We did this all in-house. On a very slim budget. We were successful because we were persistent and creative. We were responsible with our data and didn’t trust anyone else with it. Hell, we had financial data that would be a literal gold mine for spammers and phishers.
The cloud is the effective opposite of what we were doing. Instead of building infrastructure you would essentially move all necessary services to a hosting provider. All of that proprietary information, the financial data, customer files, everything would be moved somewhere else. Term services, application servers, exchange, everything would be outsourced to the cloud.
Why Do Hackers Love the Cloud?
Hackers view the cloud as an interesting attack surface because they can maximize collateral damage through a simple DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack. Since the whole point behind the cloud is to utilize and maximize the resources of a handful of providers this creates an optimal surface for hackers to carry out a DDOS attack to bring down dozens, hundreds and in some cases thousands of websites. If your site is served from the same cloud server as say Bank of America and someone decides they want to DDOS BofA chances are your site is going to be knocked offline too.
That’s just DDOS. But what about data infiltration. Can you imagine the bevy of information, the personal customer data, the proprietary business processes, vendors and financials that could be swiped. And all in one neat place. It’s too good to be true.
What should I do?
For one, understand the risks involved with the cloud and that you may not even be a target but could suffer the ramifications of someone else who is targeted and that translates into downtime. Now Amazon says the outage they experienced last week was because of a network glitch that somehow caused their storage to go offline creating a domino effect resulting in a mass outage. Hey, you can paint me with the dummy brush if you want to but this sounds an awful lot like someone found a security hole and exploited it.
ContangoIT’s Danny Mizrahi
By the way, I contacted Danny Mizrahi from ContangoIT about this outage asking him how his company was affected by the outage and responded saying that his clients that were using EC2 were setup properly and in multiple zones and weren’t affected. He also gave me a link to another in depth blog post breaking down exactly what happened in the Amazon outage which is some great reading and located HERE. Danny is one of those non-techie PRO-CLOUD sales/marketing guys that truly believes in cloud computing even though most of his clients use traditional infrastructure technology. In any event, Danny has a speaking engagement this Wednesday from 6-8pm for CANTAB NYC titled “Navigating the Cloud”. And while I don’t totally agree that putting all your eggs in the cloud basket is such a great idea, his talk should be a worthwhile event to attend.

Becoming Anonymous…

Filed Under (Anonymity, Anonymous, Encryption, Google, Privacy, Security, Web Proxy, WikiLeaks) by admin on 16-02-2011

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Have you ever googled yourself?  What did you find?  Try googling your address, your phone number, your email addresses.  Find anything?  More often than not you did find something and it is probably something that alarmed you.

Gone are the days of being anonymous.  All you had to do in the past is refuse to list your phone number in the phonebook and you were pretty safe.  Nowadays though, every part of your life is being recorded and there is no one to blame but yourself.

Social networks like facebook, myspace, linkedin, flickr, twitter, blogger and many more are making it increasingly difficult to prevent the distribution of your life.  Everything you type on these sites is being harvested.  Google saves all this data and they use it to sell you things and if you think the others aren’t catching on you are wrong.

Do a google on web mining and social networking and see what you get.  It’s a cottage industry and it’s exploding.  Hundreds of articles, techniques and “opportunities” abound.  Can you imagine?  What are your kids going to school for now?  I think by the year 2020 or 2025 the latest every single job will be social network or ad revenue based.   The revolution has begun.

Unless of course you are trying to get away from all of that.  And people are.  It’s called getting off the grid.  Returning to normalcy and real life.  This isn’t just removing yourself from social networks its removing yourself from society the way it has evolved.  It’s about getting off the power grid as much as going anonymous on the internet.

Anonymity is pretty big today with many thanks to the collective efforts of the group known as “Anonymous.”  For those of you who have been living under a rock, Anonymous has been waging wars on all those who oppose WikiLeaks.  Collective in that it has no head, no individual running the show, just a group of like-minded people who their PCs (through proxies of course) to carryout massive DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks against the enemies of WikiLeaks.

Personal anonymity on the web starts with a proxy.  And for those who are unfamiliar with this term should think of it as an internet switching station, your computer connects to the web through your provider but every request you make goes out through that switching station where it is assigned a different IP footprint.   So if it is traced back it only goes as far as the proxy.

Everyone on the web has their own IP address so masquerading or spoofing your IP as a different number by way of a proxy is the first step in claiming your anonymity.  If you are looking for a secure proxy, try googling anonymous web proxy.  Surely that will come up with something.

The second in a long list of techniques for going anonymous is secure email.  Actually its really securing everything you do.  Encryption goes a long way in protecting your data whether it be email, text chat, video chat, or through a web phone vendor such as Skype, Ooma, Vonage, etc.  Securing your internet connection starts with your router, if you are using wireless make sure you lock it down with nothing less than WPA2 encryption.   Everything else short of WPA2 can be cracked rather quickly.  This is no good.  If your router only supports WEP, then its time for a new router.  You have been warned.  For those of you without any encryption at all on your router please email your coordinates in case I need an internet connection and I am in your area.  Next, secure your computer.  I will be honest, I use a make and I lock it down manually, but on my Windows boxes I use Kaspersky and/or NOD32 as well as some custom monitoring apps for port management.  Make sure you have a solution.  I do not use symantec because I find it very invasive, but that is just me.  As far as securing your email look into private anonymous email accounts from HushMail.com or PrivacyHarbor.com.

Third, lock down your social nets.  Get off the ones you do not use.  Remove all information from them first including your education info, your personal life, your photos, your music, your friends, your jobs, your kids, your phone numbers, etc etc and when all of that info is gone try to change your username and personal info so it is no longer relating to you.  Open a dummy email account with one of the privacy based email providers I mentioned above and change your account email to the this one.  Once that is all complete abandon it.  Do not delete it.  Just abandon it.   Do this for all the networks you do not want to be on or use.  Chances are your old data will still show up in searches but over time your current (abandoned) profile will write over that search data and you will become more anonymous.

Like I stated earlier though.  If you are on the web and/or connected to a power grid you can never really be totally off the grid.  You probably pay bills on line, you may have EZ-Pass, credit cards in your name, and if you do, you can be tracked, watched and have your identity stolen.

Since this topic is always evolving and new techniques are discovered everyday I will revisit this topic over the coming months to help you become, just a little more anonymous than you were.

Adios for now…