Popular plane-tracking website Flight Radar 24 has been the victim of multiple DDoS attacks over the past few days – and though the site's operators haven't attributed blame, some have wondered if a regional conflict may have been the cause.
Flight Radar 24, as its name suggests, is a website for the live tracking of air traffic. When it was taken offline in the small hours of this morning, quite a few people were rather irritated.
Attacks on our systems continue and while we were able to bring services back for a short time, significant instability due to the sustained attacks has forced us to refocus our efforts to mitigate them. As a result, Flightradar24 remains unavailable to all users at this time.— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 29, 2020
The site’s Twitter operatives added in later posts that no user data had been compromised, adding that "this attack is focused on denying access to our services”.
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Flight Radar spokesman Ian Petchenik told The Register: “At this time we understand this to be a very strong DDoS attack [orchestrated] from a single source. While it is not known why we’re being targeted, multiple flight tracking services have suffered attacks over the past two days.”
It was not immediately obvious which other sites had suffered attacks, though some had used their Twitter accounts to inform followers of planned server upgrades and updates to end-user apps.
Open source researchers claim to have picked up the live flight tracks of drones over Armenia and Azerbaijan, following armed skirmishes between the two nations over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The conflict gained a more international dimension earlier today when a Turkish F-16 fighter jet reportedly shot down an elderly Armenian Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft.
The use of DDoSes against general-interest websites has fallen out of favour in recent years as the script kiddies behind those types of attacks in days of yore a) grew up and b) realised that ransomware is far more lucrative than crayoning over someone else’s website.
With that said, such attacks are still in use: in August someone malicious forced the New Zealand stock exchange offline, while encrypted email biz Tutanota suffered a spate of similar attacks earlier this month.
Whatever the cause of the Flight Radar 24 attacks – one knowledgeable source suggested to El Reg that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may have triggered a government determined to control what the wider world can see – they serve as a reminder that even one of the oldest online attack methods can still cause chaos today. ®