E-Threats Industry News

Criminal gang says that they shut down Skype, says Steam is next

An online gang calling itself CyberTeam has claimed that it orchestrated an attack which saw Skype users in multiple countries around the globe unable to use the service for some hours earlier this week.

The popular video chat app suffered a serious outage from 7pm GMT on Monday, which prevented many users from successfully logging into the service.

In a blog post, Skype acknowledged that it was “aware” of an “incident” that was affecting connectivity, but did not share any clues as to what might have caused the problem.

Skype has since said that it has made configuration changes to mitigate the impact of whatever has caused the outage, and many users are now reporting that the service’s performance has improved.

So, what did happen?

Well, a possible clue can be found on Twitter where a gang called CyberTeam tweeted on Monday, claiming responsibility for bringing Skype down.

Skype down by CyberTeam

Hello World !!!
#SkypeDown – #SkypeOff – #CyberTeam

The CyberTeam gang, which has the motto “We are Cyber Team. We do not forget. We do not forgive” – has previously engaged in website defacements, and has threatened to be “even more ‘aggressive'” than the notorious LizardSquad that infamously disrupted websites belonging to the likes of Activision, EA, and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Although some in the media have resorted to hyperbolic headlines asking whether Skype has been “hacked”, it seems much more likely that the video chat service found itself on the sharp end of a significant distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

A denial-of-service attack sees online criminals attempt to make it impossible to get through to a website or online service by clogging it up with huge amounts of unwanted traffic.

The good news is that nothing gets breached in a denial-of-service attack. No data is stolen, no webpages defaced, no accounts broken into. It’s just that you can’t reach a particular website any longer.

Which obviously is still a problem if the service you’re trying to access is Skype – but it’s not a hack.

The CyberTeam group, which claims to be based in Portugal, has posted images on social media suggesting that the online gaming service Steam is its next target for a DDoS attack.

We’ll all have to wait and see if that threat is realistic or not, but if it is true that CyberTeam was able to disrupt Skype then chances are that they might have enough firepower in their DDoS cannons to cause some pain for at least some other well-known sites and services.

If that does happen, at least a DDoS attack shouldn’t result in anyone’s personal information being exposed.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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  • Although it seems likely that this DDoS attack was designed to generate headlines and publicity for the DDoS capabilities of certain criminal gangs (aka marketing stunt), DDoS tools are known to be used to hide other forms of cyber attack or data exfiltration. The costs of an outage itself may be significant – and the loss of reputation – but it may be better not to consider the DDoS attack as a sign that data has not been stolen or isn't at risk.

  • 2 Months later they havn't penetrated steam… sounds like smoke blowing to me Big talk no walk. Script kiddies making promises they can't keep.