Law enforcement officer using a laptop

Worldwide law enforcement action takes down major DDoS booter services

Criminals making use of booter services which execute Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to take down websites will have to try a little bit harder today: A major international operation has taken no fewer than 48 of the most popular booter services offline.

The operation, known as “Power Off,” included law enforcement agencies from the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland.

Sites down, operators arrested

The sites that were taken down by law enforcement have been replaced with seizure notices which read as follows:

This website has been seized

The FBI has seized this website for operating as a DDoS-for-hire service. This action has been taken in conjunction with Operation Power Off, a coordinated international law enforcement effort to dismantle criminal DDoS-for-hire services worldwide. DDoS attacks are illegal.

Law enforcement agencies have seized databases and other information relating to these services. Anyone operating or utilizing a DDoS service is subject to investigation, prosecution, and other law enforcement action.

As a result of the operation, seven individuals have been arrested in the UK and US with “further actions planned” against users of the services.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that one of those arrested is just 18 years of age. “Around a quarter” of referrals to the NCA involve the use of booter services.

Why are booters so popular?

Booting services typically have a low technical barrier to entry. Back in the days of Xbox360, especially around 2009, custom made booter services became very popular with gamers. If you wanted to ensure victory in an online session, you could pay a small fee and dedicated services would kick the other players out of the game or you could download and run the tools yourself.

This is one way in which DDoS made the leap from “people who have a decent idea of what they’re doing in order to take a website down” to “pay me $10 and push this button to win.” As it turns out, pushing that button to win is a lot less intensive than figuring out how to make people run your executable or set up a working phishing page.

The people running these booter services know this, and that’s why they’re so popular. Need a website kicked offline? A gamer you just can’t stand? A service playing host to people you just can’t stand? Off to the booter markets you go. More often than not, people don’t realize how much trouble they can get into by using these tools. This is especially true in situations where young children or teenagers are looking to these services.

The long arm of the law

As the various agencies involved in this operation point out, they will be going after users of these services as well as those who operated them. They’re very clear that if you’ve used the now offline booters, you can expect to be paid a visit down the line.

Previous versions of Operation Power Down have explicitly targeted the users of DDoS tools, with police visits to the home and device confiscation thrown into the mix for good measure.

If you’re tempted to use a DDoS tool of any kind, keep this in mind. “I only used it once because I was curious” is probably not going to save you from the law’s reach. As the NCA explains, a DDoS attack a crime under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act 1990. If you’re on the fringes of illegality where this is concerned, check out their Cyber Choices page as soon as possible for a solid explanation of the consequences of these actions, and how you can use your technical skills in a positive manner.

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Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.