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NSA Website Attacked, Knocked Offline
NSA Website Attacked, Knocked Offline

By David Holmes
October 25, 2013 5:33PM

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Friday's attack on the NSA is likely retribution for recent spying scandals. The NSA has come under fire for its electronic eavesdropping on millions of Americans, as well as citizens and even politicians of foreign countries. The latest scandal was brought to light this week, with Germany furious over reported NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 



Update Saturday, October 26 PM: The NSA site is finally back online. While there was no mention of the attack, the top story featured on the NSA site is, ironically, "General Alexander Statement Regarding Cybersecurity Awareness Month."

Original Report Follows:

The U.S. National Security Agency's website, nsa.gov, was knocked offline Friday afternoon, and as of Friday evening, it was still unavailable. Only a browser message indicating that the server was not responding appeared.

Sources quoted by various news agencies have speculated that the site has apparently fallen victim to a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack, and that it was believed that the hacker group Anonymous would claim responsibility. However, as of the time of publication of this report, the group has not claimed responsibility.

DDoS Attacks Still Unstoppable

DDoS attacks are those in which data is sent to a particular server from many clients, with the goal of overwhelming or flooding the server with data and requests. In this manner, the server then becomes too busy to deliver its normal response, such as serving the requested Web page.

In many DDoS attacks, the multitude of requests are sent from computers which have been taken over by hackers through viruses that lie dormant on the computers of unsuspecting users. When the hackers “activate” the viruses and other malware, the users’ computers send the malicious requests to the target server -- in this case, that of the NSA.

Although DDoS attacks have been common for almost two decades, computer experts have been largely unable to prevent those attacks because they are unable to distinguish between legitimate Web traffic and malicious attack requests.

White House Denies NSA Spying

The NSA has recently come under fire for its electronic eavesdropping on millions of Americans, as well as citizens and even politicians of foreign countries, including U.S. allies like the U.K., France, and Germany. The latest NSA eavesdropping scandal was brought to light this week, as German government officials were furious at reported NSA spying on its Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

As a result of the NSA’a actions, The German Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday morning that it had summoned U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson for a tense discussion in which the Germans expressed in “no uncertain terms” their fury over the NSA’s actions.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied allegations of U.S. spying on Merkel.

Similar outrage was also expressed recently by France after allegations of widespread NSA spying on French citizens surfaced.

In light of the growing global resentment against the NSA, it is highly likely that today’s cyber attack is related to the anger widely felt in the U.S. and around the world.
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Netman57:

Posted: 2013-10-31 @ 1:07am PT
Seems odd to admit to internal incompetence rather than a not uncommon external event????

Brett:

Posted: 2013-10-26 @ 2:43pm PT
:0) and so it starts. Phew! FINALLY

CyberSecEngineer:

Posted: 2013-10-26 @ 2:39pm PT
Their are ways to deal with certain types of DDoS attacks. Their are types of attacks that are impossible to stop. Such as "HTTP get" attacks or TCP flood attacks. As well as multiple types of hybrid attacks.

Best you can do is try to redirect some traffic to a "dead" node but even that is only a temporary solution. If someone wanted to. They could keep the site down permanently. Theirs just no one to stop a DDoS attack the has enough bandwidth to overwhelm the server when it is using a valid request that stays open until it times out.

Kenny:

Posted: 2013-10-26 @ 7:34am PT
@taxi
I agree, as of today there is no simple way to stop a dos attack, in the future there will be. As quickly as people try to find solutinos, hackers are finding the next new exploit. Although this attack isn't a serious security risk, it makes people wonder how secure our nation's vital information really is or is not.

Taxi:

Posted: 2013-10-25 @ 11:58pm PT
@Nissan:

There is no possible fix to a DDoS attack. Although there are ways to mitigate it, they can all basically be overwhelmed. The problem here, as it says in the article above, is that they are hard to tell apart from normal traffic. If you've ever been part of a mass redirection of internet traffic to a certain site (reddit does it a lot to smaller sites), then you've probably been part of bringing a server down with the same methods DDoS attacks do.

Security vendors do have ways to avoid this, basically with more servers set up as filters, but they are more expensive than a site like this would need. NSA.gov is not going to be linked to the NSA's archives, or any other sort of secret information. Hacking it would do literally nothing, except give someone the chance to rewrite what is on the site temporarily.

Nissan:

Posted: 2013-10-25 @ 7:49pm PT
At this point in time, we don't know whether the site was hacked as well as brought down with the DDoS attack.

But what we do know is how ridiculously embarrassing it is for yet another government agency Website to be brought down by a type of attack that is so well known and should have been totally expected.

Hello, security vendors - time to come with something to deal with these types of attacks, no?

Fill:

Posted: 2013-10-25 @ 6:02pm PT
DDoS is not a "hack".



Neustar, Inc. (NYSE: NSR) is a trusted, neutral provider of real-time information and analysis to the Internet, telecommunications, information services, financial services, retail, media and advertising sectors. Neustar applies its advanced, secure technologies in location, identification, and evaluation to help its customers promote and protect their businesses. More information is available at www.neustar.biz.


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