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22 Dec 2006

CafePress website struck by distributed denial-of-service attack

CafePress has published information about the DDoS attack on its website
CafePress has published information about the DDoS attack on its website.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have reminded companies of internet attacks after popular website CafePress.com told its members that it is currently the victim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assault.

CafePress.com is a website that allows internet users to set up their own online store to easily sell customized merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs and and coasters. CafePress.com handles the website hosting, order fulfilment and payment processing on behalf of the store owner.

DDoS attacks are used by internet hackers to disrupt websites, flooding them with traffic from zombie computers and making them inaccessible for the general public. Sophos experts speculate that the hackers may have deliberately targeted CafePress.com in the run-up to the holidays, as it is a prime shopping period.

"We have seen denial-of-service attacks against gambling websites in the days before a big horserace, so it's sadly no surprise to see an attack against a popular online store just before Christmas," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that their PC is properly secured, and not under the remote control of hackers who might abuse it for this kind of assault."

In an emailed statement to its shopkeepers, CafePress confirmed that they were the victims of a DDoS attack, and that they were working with the authorities:

As you may have read on the CafePress Community Forum, we're experiencing a targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which is causing significant service interruptions. As of right now some customers have access that appears normal, some have intermittent access, and some have no access at all.

A DDoS attack is a computer crime and violates Internet proper use policy as dictated by the Internet Architecture Board, and we are now working with the proper authorities. For this reason we are not able to share any additional details at this time.

We do consider this an attack on CafePress, but we're most disturbed at how this victimizes our community of Shopkeepers.

In October, a Russian gang were jailed for blackmailing gambling websites to the tune of $4 million by threatening denial-of-service attacks.

Previously, in January 2004, software company SCO announced that it was offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the successful arrest and conviction of the author of the W32/MyDoom-A worm, which successfully blasted its website off the internet through a DDoS attack.

"Denial-of-service attacks have become a standard element in the hacker's arsenal. Whether they are hitting websites in order to blackmail them, or because they have a grudge against the company, hackers can inflict great harm to the online presence of a business," continued Cluley. "CafePress.com have done the right thing by keeping their users informed of the problem and working closely with the authorities to investigate this crime."

Zombie computers - are your PCs under someone else's control?

Zombie computers can be used by criminal hackers to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, spread spam messages or to steal confidential information. SophosLabs estimates that more than 60 percent of all spam today originates from zombie computers. In May 2005, the Sober-Q Trojan horse and Sober-N worm worked in tandem to infect and hijack computers around the world, programming them to spew out German nationalistic spam during an election.

As spammers become more aggressive, collaborating with virus writers to create armies of zombie computers, legitimate organizations with hijacked computers are being identified as a source of spam. This not only harms the organization's reputation, but can also cause the company's email to be blocked by others.

Sophos ZombieAlert™ advises service subscribers when any computer on their network is found to have sent spam to Sophos's extensive global network of spam traps, and provides rapid notification to customers if their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are listed in public Domain Name Server Block Lists (DNSBL). This information helps customers locate, disinfect, and protect these systems from future attacks.

Sophos continues to recommend that computer users ensure their anti-virus software is up-to-date, and that companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend them from the threats of spam, spyware and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.