A small retail business in North Africa; a North American telecommunications provider; two separate religious organizations: What do they all have in common? They’re all running poorly configured Microsoft servers that for months or years have been spraying the Internet with gigabytes-per-second of junk data in distributed-denial-of-service attacks designed to disrupt or completely take down websites and services.
In all, recently published research from Black Lotus Labs, the research arm of networking and application technology company Lumen, identified more than 12,000 servers—all running Microsoft domain controllers hosting the company’s Active Directory services—that were regularly used to magnify the size of DDoSes, the standard abbreviation for distributed-denial-of-service attacks.
A never-ending arms race
For decades, DDoSers have battled with defenders in a constant, never-ending arms race. Early on, DDoSers simply corralled ever-larger numbers of Internet-connected devices into botnets and then used them to simultaneously send a target more data than they can handle. Targets—be they game companies, journalists, or even crucial pillars of Internet infrastructure—often buckled at the strain and either completely fell over or slowed to a trickle.