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DDoS Deflect News from Deflect Labs

Updates from Deflect – 3 – 2022

This was a busy month for Deflect’s mitigation tooling, with Banjax blocking almost 12 million malicious requests launched by 108,294 different bots. Due to the war in Ukraine, many people turned to Deflect protected Ukrainian media sites for information. Throughout the month Deflect served 1,128,751,920 requests (almost double than the previous month) of which 283,570,50 came from Ukraine – around 20% of our global traffic. 1,277,053 Ukrainians read Deflect protected websites – also a testament to the stability of the Internet there.

Ukrainian readership in March, by city

The biggest attack recorded this month was against informator.ua – a pan-Ukrainian news website with a focus on the Donbas region.

On the 31st of March, between 07:45-8:50 GMT+0 about 1,300 unique IPs were blocked by Deflect as they attacked informator.ua with GET /ru?8943563843054274 and POST /ru?829986440416200 requests, utilizing cache-busting techniques. These bots were from Brazil, USA, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and many other countries, almost 1,000 of them seems to be infected MikroTik routers. Several hundred were compromised webservers and SOCKS proxies. There was a partial downtime for this website for about an hour as Deflect was not able to mitigate this attack fast enough to be sure no malicious requests are hitting the origin. The Baskerville system did not react as expected (this has been fixed). We enabled Challenger for this domain to be sure we can mitigate future attack without any issues for the origin. Our log aggregation and analysis system was affected by the overall amount of requests and was out of sync for a short period of time.

Over 300,000 requests per minute were generated by the attackers. As you can see – a significant amount of bots originated from the United States. This is another important reminder for patching your computer systems and other Internet connected devices. Otherwise it could be your system attacking Ukrainian websites too!
Top banned unique IPs by vendor

    912 MikroTikRouter
    232 Unknown
     51 UbuntuServer
     44 Torrouter
     33 DebianServer
     16 WindowsServer
      6 WindowsSystem
      6 RedHatServer
      4 CentOSLinuxServer

Top banned unique IPs by service

    875 MikroTik
    232
     49 Ubuntu-ssh
     44 TorExitRouterHTTPheader
     33 Debiansshheader
     13 MikroTikSNMPinfo
     10 MikroTikFTPserver
      8 MikroTikPPTPserver
      7 WindowsRDPServer
      7 MSIISheader
      6 WindowsNetBIOS
      6 RedHatDNSheader
      5 MikrotikRouterOSconfigurationpage
      4 ApacheCentOS
      2 WindowswithMSHTTPAPIWebServer

by client_url:

199940     /ru
102142     /ru/category/biznes/login
37312      /ru/ukraino-rossiyskie-peregovory-v-stambule-itogi
3          /ru/post-prev/45573
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Blog Deflect

Updates from Deflect – 2 – 2022

Since the beginning of this year, we have served over 1.5 billion website requests to approximately 13.5 million unique readers the world over! We mitigated over 17 distinct and significant attacks and kept our clients online 100% of the time! Our combined bot banning technology (machine lead predictions from Baskerville and confirmed anomalies by Banjax) blocked 5,794,533 malicious hits originating from 1,668,388 zombie bots. That’s quite a lot for this early in the season 🙂

Some of the biggest attacks were directed at a Colombian independent journalist website Los Danieles, a Filipino news media Verafiles, a Latin American information agency and an Indian feminist rights portal.

Attacks during January and February 2022. Colours represent different Deflect clients.

In what is a rather unusual occurence, the deflect.ca website itself was attacked on February 07th. Around 11:00-11:03 GMT+0 about 10,000 unique IPs were sending GET / requests to deflect.ca None of these requests were banned as the attack window was too small. Baskerville worked well in classifying about 5,700 of them as malicious. Some requests returned 502 codes but these were generally malicious requests. eQPress behaved well serving up to 2,620 requests per second on nginx with 5,000RPS to the database and 100 mbps of outgoing traffic. No collateral damage was detected to other eQPress clients. We investigated and improved some of our caching logic as a result of this incident.

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Blog DDoS Deflect

Deflect – a year in summary

Once again, the Deflect network grew in size and audience in 2021. Apart from the continuously stellar work of our clients, what stood out the most for the Deflect team tasked with network monitoring and adversary mitigation – was the increasing sophistication and ‘precision’ of Baskerville, outperforming human rule sets written for the Banjax mitigation toolkit request rate-limiting library. Yes, the machine is outperforming humans on Deflect. We won’t get into the philosophical nature of this reality, rather share some statistics and interesting attacks we witnessed this year, with you.

Year in stats

Legitimate no. of requests served10,152,911,060
Legitimate no. of unique readers (IP)77,011,728
Total requests banned – Banjax3,326,915
Total requests challenged by Baskerville2,606,927
% of Deflect clients also using eQpress hosting34 %
Total amount of complete Deflect outage0
Lowest up-time for any Deflect client99.8%
% of clients increase year-on-year21.62%
Largest botnet, by number of bots 19,333
Number of significant DDoS events103

Deflected attacks

What an attack looks like

On November 04, 2021 – a DDoS attack on a Vietnamese media (also hosted on EQPress) began around 16:50 UTC. Between 2,000-2,500 unique IPs where blocked, as originating from United States, Canada, Germany, France and other countries. These bots issued about 825 thousand GET / and GET https://website.com// requests during this attack. Most IPs involved were detected as proxies, and many of them revealed an IPs in X-Forwarded-For header. The underlying WordPress instance received up to 5,000 requests per second, forcing the EQPress server to send up to 30 megabits per second of html responses. Thanks to the FasctCGI cache and overall configuration hardening, the hosting network cluster had enough resources to serve requests until all bots were blocked without any significant issues for the website itself or its neighbors.

Baskerville detected this attack and issued challenge commands to 2,200+ IPs.

Baskerville’s traffic light classification system

This attack targeted an independent investigative journalism website from the Philippines. The attack began on November 15th and continued throughout the next two weeks. Large portions of attack traffic were not accessible to Deflect, targeting the hosting data center with L3/L4 floods.

Almost 4,000 unique IP addresses issued more than 70 millions “GET /” and “GET /?&148294400498e131004165713TT117859756720Q106417752262N” requests against the website, using `cache busting` techniques with random query_string parameters. Attackers also reverted to using forged User-Agents in request strings. Obviously this attack was adapted against Deflect caching defenses. Many of the participating IPa were proxies possible revealing the original sender with X-Forwarded-For header.

Unfortunately, this attack was not fully mitigated in a quick way and caused several hours of downtime for real users. After manually enabling Deflect’s advanced protection mechanisms and adjusting the origin’s configuration, the website became stable again.

A Zambian democratic watchdog organization was attacked twice between August 08-09 and 11-12. It seems that when the attackers came back a second time round, they hadn’t learned their lessons and tried a similar technique and an almost identical botnet.

Servers from different countries (mostly Unites States, Germany, Russia, France) were sending more than 16 millions of GET / and /s=87675957 requests (with random numbers to bypass caching) during the first round of attacks. During the following incident over 137 million malicious requests were recorded and blocked.

Most of these IPs are known as compromised servers that could be used as proxies and MikroTik routers. 383 unique User-Agent headers were used, all of them were Google Chrome variations. We can also see about 400 TOR exit nodes which were used for this attack.

Millions of hits per minute

The first attack was not completely mitigated due to its profile and some traffic was able to hit the origin server, resulting in several hours of partial downtime for real visitors during different phases of this attack. The second attack was completely mitigated as we had already updated our mitigation profiles.

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Blog Deflect Labs News from Deflect Labs

Baskerville – dynamic model updates

The challenge: Design and implement a system to receive and process feedback from clients, to augment and improve the machine learning model. Produce a model that has the flexibility to adapt to clients’ feedback and the changing patterns in request signatures, whilst also allowing for dynamic model deployment, without breaking existing integration.

In other words: we created the Baskerville botnet mitigation system to be able to react to new and constantly changing attack patterns on the Deflect network. Training the machine on past attacks – we have reached a point where Baskerville can identify more malicious actors than what was captured by our static rules. Now, we need to grow this functionality to accept feedback from our clients on prediction accuracy and to be able to regularly deploy new models without any interruption of service.

Model design

There are several approaches for live model updating. You can use simple files, or a cache and an Rest API call, or a pub-sub mechanism, you can use serialized (pickled) models, models stored in a database and many more mechanisms and formats. But the main concept is the same, either check for a new model every X time unit or have a stand by service which is notified whenever a change occurs and takes care of the model reloading – on demand. We are combining approaches for our case.

The model needs to be re-trained regularly in order to follow the constantly changing patterns of traffic. The general design idea is to decouple the feature generation pipeline from the prediction pipeline. As a result, the feature generation pipeline calculates a super-set of features and the prediction pipeline allows different model versions to use any subset of features. In addition, the model supports backward compatibility and uses the default values in case of an outdated feature generation pipeline.

As soon as a new model is available, the prediction pipeline detects this and starts using the new model without any interruption of service. When features need to be changed, the model is deployed the same way but the User Module will need to be updated and re-deployed as well. Clients will be updating this module from our git repository. It’s very important to mention that during this period required for the User Module to be updated, the new model will be able to communicate with the outdated User Model and deliver the predictions in the usual way. The lack of new or modified features in the model’s input will not break the compatibility since the defaults will be used for missing values.

Based on the assumption that it makes sense that all the requests within a time-window should be processed by the same model, the model change should happen either at the end or at the start of the processing period. For the sake of performance, we decided to put the model updating process at the end of the PredictionPipeline, after the predictions were sent to the client via Kafka, so that we can increase the time it takes for the client to get receive predictions. The following figure explains what happens when a new model is stored in the database after a time-window has been processed (during the idle time waiting for a new batch) and during a time-window processing. In the first case, the next time-window will be processed with the old model and at the end the new one will be loaded. In the second case, since the processing of the current time window has not completed yet, we will load the new model at the end of it and the next time-window will have the fresh model to work with. The asynchronous nature of the training and the predicting is the reason behind the design of the reloading. We ran several test runs to make sure the reloading did not affect the performance of the pipeline.

Feedback Dashboard

In order to receive curated feedback from clients (e.g. the prediction was incorrect) we developed and designed a graphical dashboard consisting of two main components: the back-end REST API built using Python Flask with web-socket support via Flask-SocketIO; and the front-end Angular project, relying on node and npm. The feedback process consists of three steps:

  1. Feedback Context: provide some details about the feedback, like reason, period and an optional notes field. The reason can be one of the following: attack, false positive, false negative, true positive, true negative or other. We provide a short description for each reason option.
  2. Filter out the request sets relevant to the feedback using the search filters. The user can also provide a csv files with IPs to use as a filter.
  3. The last step is for the user to submit the feedback results to Baskerville (Clearinghouse). Because labelling and providing feedback is a painstaking process, we designed the process in a way that the user can omit the last step (submit) if they are not ready yet, and can choose to submit later on. The Clearinghouse will receive the feedback at some point (configurable time window of feedback pipeline) and once the feedback is processed, the pipeline will reply to the user feedback reply topic – which by convention is “{organization_uuid}.feedback”.

We also created a Retrain Pipeline as well as a Retrain dashboard page and functionality to make it easier for us to do periodic model updates. This functionality is only available within the Clearinghouse where the model resides.

This work is a result of months of painstaking development, testing and iteration. If you are interested in trying out Baskerville on your own web platforms, please get in touch. Our work is available under an open source licence and is developed with privacy-by-design principles. We encourage third-party adoptions of our tooling, outside of the Deflect ecosystem and will be publishing another blog post in the very near future outlining the launch of the Deflect Labs Clearinghouse. Watch this space!

  • Baskerville: https://github.com/equalitie/baskerville
  • Baskerville User Client: https://github.com/equalitie/baskerville_client
  • Baskerville Dashboard: https://github.com/equalitie/baskerville_dashboard
  • Baskerville Docker components: https://github.com/equalitie/deflect-analytics-ecosystem
  • Pyspark IForest fork: https://github.com/equalitie/spark-iforest
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Testimonials

Los Danieles

Thank you to Deflect who has protected us from so many cyber attacks. They have demonstrated that their technology can be used to protect freedom of expression.

Daniel Samper, Los Danieles
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Blog Deflect Press Release

Deflect partners with technology and media groups

June 01, 2021 – Deflect partners with technology and media groups

Since 2010, Deflect has specialized in protecting online platforms from cyber attacks. Today, our mission and time-tested tooling reaches further and wider than ever before! We are honoured to announce strategic partnerships with well-known Internet Service Providers and digital media entrepreneurs in the Americas and Europe. Our combined service offering includes all manner of web hosting and online collaboration platforms, technical consultancy and web security services. With over a hundred years of collective technology expertise and a dozen common languages between us, this is a partnership that will serve a global clientele and meet the challenges of shrinking online spaces for expression and self-determination.

Our mission is strengthened through this mutually beneficial partnership. We stand together, stronger and ever more resilient, to protect our clients’ platforms with ethical technology solutions, multilingual human resources and a common belief in principles before profits.

Dmitri Vitaliev, Founder deflect.ca

Find out more about our partners’ individual services and mission from the list below. Check out Deflect’s partnership opportunities and write to us!

@colnodo

Colnodo is a non for profit organization working since 1994 providing Internet infrastructure services to activists and civil society organizations.  Colnodo’s main objective is the access, use and appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICT) for social development, human development and the improvement of people’s living conditions through the strengthening of capacities and competencies, education for work, information and knowledge exchange, increased citizen participation, sustainable development and innovation.

@greenhost

Greenhost (Netherlands) is an established infrastructure provider focusing on digital human rights and sustainability. By providing (infrastructure) services to a wide range of organisations supporting human rights, free press and/or censorship circumvention while preserving privacy guarantees. Greenhost makes sure to keep the internet an open and innovative space.

@greennetisp

GreenNet (UK) have been networking people and activist groups for peace, the environment, equality and human rights since 1986 – providing internet services, web design and hosting. Our hardware and software choices are based on expert technical judgment, our ecological sustainability and ethical business values.

@cloud68hq

(Tirana, Tallinn, Worldwide) Cloud68.co provides reliable open source digital infrastructure to for-purpose small & medium teams, organizations and individuals with responsive and friendly support. As a team of long time contributors to digital privacy and open knowledge projects we are committed to help you migrate from big tech as easy as possible.

@sembramedia

SembraMedia is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering diverse voices in Spanish media to publish news and information with independence, journalistic integrity, and a positive impact on the communities they serve. They conduct research, provide training, consulting, and financial support to help media leaders develop more sustainable business models in Latin America, Spain, and the U.S. Hispanic market.

At MainMicro, our goal is to ensure customer satisfaction by providing ongoing support and cost effective solutions for our partners. We take great pride in having a customer retention rate that is among the highest in the industry. For us, when you become a customer you also become a friend, and we become the one-stop shop for all of your IT related needs.

At Black Crow Labs we construct your brand’s ecosystem and tell your story.  By engaging with prospective customers on targeted platforms we integrate your brand into their lives and conversations.

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Inspiration

Andrew Jennings

Deflect saved my journalism and my independent capacity to publish the results of my investigations. I specialise in corruption and the effect of globalisation and organised crime on international sports federations like FIFA and the IOC. My blogging is welcomed by sports fans globally because I reveal corruption scandals that many ‘establishment’ sports correspondents don’t want to touch. Last Autumn my website was overwhelmed by botnets. Many days it was knocked offline and even my ethical ISP was brought down for a while. It was soon clear that a particular disclosure had discomforted some rich and powerful administrators in world sport. They could not sue because the story was documented. So they resorted to dirty tricks. Deflect galloped to my rescue and did a whole lot of things that I, a simple investigative reporter, will never understand. My site was restored and remains so. My thanks – plus those of a world-wide community committed to honesty in reporting.

Andrew Jennings
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Uncategorized

Deflect your problems

We reckon cyber offence is a good type of defence. In light of popular demand, we’re releasing a new customer focused feature. Instead of mitigating attacks, we will simply Deflect them to another website – of your choice. Select from your favourite car dealership, online casino or dictator’s blog. Everyone’s a target on Deflect!

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Blog Deflect

Updates from Deflect – 2 – 2021

Traffic & Attacks

Since the beginning of this year, we have served over 2 billion website hits to approximately 18 million unique readers the world over! We mitigated over 30 distinct attacks and kept our clients online 100% of the time! The Banjax bot banning technology blocked 291,898 malicious hits originating from 58,181 zombie bots. Our machine lead anomaly prediction system Baskerville was further able to identify and challenge suspiciously behaving IPs 1,182,084 times out of which only 16,755 proved to be legitimate readers and were allowed to access the requested website. This equates to 98.58% precision – which is pretty good for a machine!

Most popular countries reading Deflect protected websites

These attacks have helped us confirm that our prior implementation of the Shapley value estimation in Baskerville had lead to positive results. This is a general way to explain the output from the machine learning model by feature importance ranking – to help us decide which feature works best. We used this algorithm to compare an older machine model with a model that uses only the features Shapley values say are important, on a data set that contained the latest attacks. The model with only the most important features outperformed the older model.

Deflect referral program

Financial survival and independence on today’s Internet is tough. Big Tech permeates and controls virtually every aspect of our digital experience. When it comes to Internet infrastructure and network services, corporate giants such as Akamai, AWS and Cloudflare dominate the space. These handful of companies have managed to create an ecosystem where they profit from virtually every transaction or advertising campaign. While we choose our destiny as consumers, the growing problem is a lack of choices. One way or another, we are being pushed towards a handful of companies.

We want to do things differently. Our goal is to succeed in lockstep with our clients, not simply profit from them. The Deflect referral program creates a mutually beneficial commercial opportunity – by registering for this program and installing a ‘Protected by Deflect’ badge on your website with a unique hyperlink, you will receive 50% of the first full month’s fees charged to every new client that subscribed from this link. Write to partner@deflect.network if you want to participate in this program or read more about this and other collaborative opportunities on the Partner Programs page.

New Website

You are reading this update on our freshly minted website – powered by WordPress and hosted on the secure eQpress platform. We decided to build it using the default 2020 theme. This code is supported by the WordPress team, built according to best practices. That’s important when it comes to running the popular (but often compromised) WordPress platform – the ease of installation for new themes and plugins lowers the barrier for entry and makes it highly functional and customizable. At the same time, custom code developments become outdated, insecure and often lead to website hacking and unintended DDoS attacks. Our set-up configuration comes with the following:

  • Protection from DDoS attacks and password brute-force
  • Daily snapshots and differential backup
  • Long term theme support from WordPress
  • SEO management, chat support, Matomo Analytics, Polylang translations

Over 25% of Deflect clients also host their website on eQpress. The service is detailed on the eQpress page and you can request it from the Dashboard, or contact us with questions. 

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Kandinsky WordPress theme

A new website creation framework ‘Kandinsky‘ has just been released as a WordPress theme by our friends from «Теплица социальных технологий» (Greenhouse for Social Technologies) in response to needs expressed by civil society groups. The free and open source release on Github offers three templates for installation and guides website creators with helpful tips and check lists. We spoke with Alexey, director of the Greenhouse for Social Technologies about their new release:

eQ: What can you tell us about this new theme?

Alexey: Any organization can use it. It’s free and open source. Having said this, it was created with NGOs and public initiatives in mind. It’s not just a customizable WordPress theme. It also contains pre-made content created to address typical challenges that NGOs face on a regular basis. In particular, NGOs, at least in Russia, usually have difficulties with composing content. Therefore, Kandinsky not only fulfills the role of a theme but also of a checklist of what content should be on an NGO website. There are three templates for different use cases (soon, however, we plan to use only one but greatly improve its ability to be customized). Each template contains test content (news, reports, teams, photos from events, description of activities). Based on NGOs’ best practices, we’ve invented three non-existent organizations in order to fill these templates with content that makes sense in the NGO context.

eQ: What motivated you to create it? Was there a real-life use case that drove this initiative?

Alexey: The need came from our own experience – as an organization we help NGO’s with digital communication and we needed some reliable and modern framework that would be fast and easy to install (now, after 8 minutes, the Installation Wizard has a website up and running). We just wanted to help the organizations have something decent on WordPress and not pay anyone or worry constantly that someone might commercialize the theme. Also, we needed it ourselves for 2 kinds of tasks: side-projects and events. Sometimes we launch a hackathon or a series of online webinars and we wanted a dedicated site – we wanted something that could be set up easily, customizable, and had everything we might need. And so we did it. We adhere to the principle ‘eat your own dog food’ and any event web page or side event we build now is based on Kandinsky which saves us lots of time and effort. We stopped considering website creation a budget line.

eQ: What are these new features?

Alexey: Originally, key values of Kandinsky were simplicity, ease of installation, and responsiveness to NGO’s needs. As we’ve learned, we realized that aside from being able to install the theme in a few seconds and have plug-ins ready as well as pre-made content, customization is of key importance. People are annoyed having the same Ford Model “T” in any color given it’s black, to quote famous inventor Henry Ford. They need to set up a website and then make it unlike any other website in a few minutes.

Therefore, freedom of customization is the most important development line now. In the last year, we’ve added:

  • over 100 Google Fonts to choose from
  • customizable header with the ability to turn on/off different elements inside (logo, phone number, links to social networks, etc.), which creates multitude of different options
  • customizable footer

Our next milestone is turning the main page of a website to a Gutenberg block editor (now the main page can be freely edited with the help of a less versatile tool) and then – to the new WordPress system called Full Site Editing.

Deflect clients can create a new eQpress site with the Kandinsky theme by going to the ‘Hosting tab’ in the Deflect Dashboard and selecting to pre-load the installation with this theme.