Back Online, Krebs Laments Use of DDoS Attacks to Censor Speech

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Security researcher Brian Krebs is back online following a massive distributed denial of service attack last week. And he has a bone to pick with those who use the tactic to silence critics.

The journalist's website suffered "a historically large" raid, which he presumes is revenge for exposing two hackers who provided DDoS services. The attackers threw so much spam traffic at krebsonsecurity.com that DDoS protection provider Akamai dropped the site to protect other subscribers, he wrote in a Sunday post.

"I do not fault Akamai for their decision," Krebs said. "I was a pro bono customer from the start, and Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years."

Josh Shaul, Akamai's vice president of Web security, tells the Boston Globe that fighting the recent attack on Krebs would have cost "millions" of dollars.

Krebs' site return to the Web over the weekend. It's now guarded by Google's Project Shield, which protects sites sharing news, human rights, or election-monitoring content that do not have the resources to defend against major DDoS attacks.

This, according to Krebs, is the bigger issue; DDoS attacks are "uniquely effective weapons for stomping on free speech," he wrote.

"The sad truth these days is that it's a lot easier to censor the digital media on the Internet than it is to censor printed books and newspapers in the physical world," Krebs lamented. "On the Internet, anyone with an axe to grind and a willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor."

And the strikes show no sign of slowing. In 2015, network infrastructure operator Verisign counted 85 percent more attacks during the fourth quarter than the same time a year before.

"I don't know what it will take to wake the larger Internet community out of its slumber to address this growing threat to free speech and ecommerce," Krebs wrote. "My guess is it will take an attack that endangers human lives, shuts down critical national infrastructure systems, or disrupts national elections.

"I sincerely hope we can address this problem before it's too late," he added.

Krebs suspects the attack on his site was in retaliation for a recent story about two Israeli teenagers who allegedly ran an online attack-for-hire hacking service, vDOS. Shortly after Krebs' story ran, the duo were arrested.

"The traffic hurled at my site in that massive attack included the text string 'freeapplej4ck,' a reference to the hacker nickname used by one of vDOS's alleged co-founders," Krebs wrote.

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