Anonymous takes aim at World Cup sponsors

News by Steve Gold

Hactivist group Anonymous has announced plans to launch a DDoS attack on the sponsors of the football World Cup, which opens in Brazil later this month.

Reuters - interviewing Che Commodore, a masked member of Anonymous - says that preparations for the distributed denial of service attack are now under way.

“We have a plan of attack. We have already conducted late-night tests to see which of the sites are more vulnerable - this time we are targeting the sponsors of the World Cup," he said.

The main sponsors of the World Cup include Adidas, Budweiser, Coca Cola and Emirates Airlines.

Reuters quotes Che Commodore as claiming that a test attack earlier this week allowed Anonymous to break into the Brazilian Foreign Ministry's server and access dozens of confidential documents, as well as steal several email accounts.

The newswire adds that in response to the claims, a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that 55 email accounts were accessed and the only documents that were obtained were attached to emails and those from the ministry's internal document archive.

Can Anonymous carry out its threat?

Tim Keanini, CTO with Lancope, says that, regardless of threat profile, an event of this magnitude must have a heightened level of readiness to a physical or cyber security related event.

"By the time a group like this makes a public announcement, much of the infiltration phase has already been done. These threat actors are smart and they don't start to show their cards until they are well into the operational phase of their campaign," he explained.

Keanini said that events like the World Cup require hundreds of interconnected businesses and every one of those businesses need to be prepared.

"If your business is connected to the Internet you should be prepared for cyber security events because it is likely to have already happened, you just don't have the tools and technique to detect it," he noted.

Sean Power, security operations manager with DOSarrest, meanwhile, said that Anonymous is a face that any hacktivist can masquerade behind.

"The composition of a team from one OP to the next will vary greatly - with a predictable effect on the sophistication of the attack. That being said, under normal operation any event as much in the public eye should be wary of DoS attacks, if threats have already been levied, that concern should be increased, not dismissed out of hand," he explained.

Ryan Dewhurst, a senior engineer and web security specialist with RandomStorm, told that Anonymous has already stated that they used targeted phishing emails to install malware on victim's machines and gain access to government documents.

"I believe they will use a mixture of both sophisticated and non-sophisticated attacks. However, they have also stated that they will be carrying out Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against the World Cup sponsors," he said.

"Anonymous' DDoS attacks, in the past, have worked by getting many Anonymous members to run software, most likely their infamous Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) tool, which attempts to flood their target with an overwhelming amount of traffic. The LOIC tool is most likely being run by the majority of the group members who have less technical skill, whereas the more sophisticated attacks are most likely carried out by the most skilled members of the group which would be fewer in number," he added.

Dewhurst says that Anonymous - if indeed it is this group and not another group of hacktivists using its name - are always going to go for the easiest targets, as these are also the least risky for them to attack, while still achieving their goals.

"If their less risky methods are unsuccessful they will begin to increase the sophistication of the attack, however this also increases the risk of them eventually being caught," he explained.

David Howorth, Alert Logic's vice president, say there are lessons that can be learned from Anonymous' latest campaign, which means that companies should review their security practices assuming an attack could take place.

IT security professionals, he advises, must be vigilant and ensure that all employees are aware of the company's internal security policy and best practices, practice good password security, as well as making sure that all systems and applications are up-to-date and patched.

"Make sure you have expertise that can monitor, correlate and analyse the security threats to your network and applications across your on-premise and cloud infrastructure 24x7 for continuous protection - this should be done now, as the hackers are already testing the vulnerabilities in the infrastructure in preparation for their attacks," he went on to say.

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