Akamai’s research team has an interesting post on how attackers now use web proxies to shield their identities when launching DDoS attacks. Using fairly simple web-based tools they can launch attacks, and by routing the traffic through an exposed web proxy they can hide the bots or other devices performing the attacks.

234 source IP addresses is a surprisingly low number when considering the duration of the collected data (one month), further analysis into the data revealed that out of the 234 IPs, 136 were web proxies – this explains the low number of source IPs – attackers are using web proxies to hide their true identity. In order to understand the nature of these web proxies, we analyzed the domain (WHOIS) information as well as certain HTTP headers and discovered that 77% of all WebHive LOIC attack traffic came from behind Opera Mini proxy servers.

So the hackers are abusing Opera’s mobile browser system to launch their attacks. Akamai tracked that back to the devices, which were largely in Indonesia. But were they? Were other obfuscation techniques used to further hide the attackers? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter.

The Akamai researchers go on to talk about blocking attackers’ source IP addresses. Of course that requires you to be pretty nimble, able to mine those IP addresses, and to get blocks configured on your network gear (or within your scrubbing service). Then they talk about using WAF rules to protect applications by blocking DoS tools. And blocking HTTP from well-known DoS apps, assuming the attackers aren’t messing with headers.


Understand that blocking some of these IP addresses and applications may result in dropping legitimate sessions from legitimate former customers. Because people who cannot complete a transaction will find a company which can. So it becomes a balance of loss, between downtime and failed transactions.

Akamai doesn’t mention built-in application defenses (as discussed in our AppDoS paper), but that’s okay – when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Photo credit: “Hide & Seek” originally uploaded by capsicina