Hacking activity is at an all-time high, according to stats compiled by The Honeynet Project.
It bases this conclusion on the number of attacks perpetrated against a network of servers, set up by the organisation specifically to collect data on hacking attempts.
The intrusion detection system placed on the Honeynet's servers generated 157 alerts during May 2000 but this figure had escalated by a factor of almost nine to 1,398 alerts by February 2001. The Honeynet's firewall showed a doubling of alerts from 103 to 206 per month between May 2000 and February 2001.
Much of what the project discovered chimes in with the increasing incidents of corporate Web site defacement and other hacking attacks but it also throws up some interesting insights in the techniques used by black hat hackers.
"Some black hats have streamlined their scanning process to merely look for a specific service," the Honeynet Project said on a report on its work, which is available here. "If they find the service, they launch the exploit without even first determining if the system is vulnerable, or even the correct system."
"This aggressive approach allows black hats to scan and exploit more systems in less time," said the report, which added the tactic of focusing on exploiting a single vulnerability is used by many s'kiddies.
"These numbers indicate black hat activity has continued to grow, most likely the result of more aggressive, automated scanning tools and their growing availability."
Between April and December 2000, seven default installations of Red Hat 6.2 servers were attacked within three days of connecting to the Internet. From this the people behind the project concluded that "the life expectancy of a default installation of Red Hat 6.2 server to be less then 72 hours". Scary stuff.
By contrast a default Windows 98 installation with shares enabled, typical of that found in many homes, was compromised in just 24 hours. The most popular attack method used by hackers were buffer attacks associated with rpc.statd service on Intel machine and the most popular scanning tool was found to be Syn-Fin.
The Honeynet Project maintained a closely monitored eight IP network linked up to the net using an ISDN connection, such as a small business might use. Within this network of honeypot machines, which are designed to lure unsuspecting hackers inside, three systems (running either Solaris Sparc, NT, Windows 98 or Red Hat Linux) were generally running at most times.
The people behind the project collected and archived every attack on this network for an eleven month period, between April 2000 and February 2001 but its results were only published this week. They admit that their findings are specific to their network and that more research, especially on using data to predict attacks, is needed.
The Honeynet Project reckons that enterprise users will see far more attacks than those thrown against the project's machines.
"Remember, the Honeynet used to collect this information had no production systems of value, nor was it advertised to lure attackers. If your organisation has any value, or is advertised in any way, you are most likely exposed to even greater threat." ®