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The Insider website hit by DDoS attack after publishing investigation into “patriotic” hacker group Killnet

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The Insider’s website was hit by a 24-hour DDoS attack after the publication of an investigation into the Killnet group, which calls itself the “Russian cyber army.” The attack began the day after the investigative report was released online, starting at 13:00 Moscow time and peaking at a rate of 20,000 requests per second. The Insider's website and its mirrors went offline briefly on September 6, hit by a flood of requests from close to 400,000 different IP addresses.

It's worth noting that before this attack, the editorial team hadn't received any threats, and none of the groups associated with Killnet had previously declared their intention to target The Insider.

According to Cloudflare, one of the world's most popular providers of DDoS defense solutions, nearly all of these DDoS attacks remain below the threshold of 50,000 requests per second. To provide context, a significant DDoS attack on an independent Russian media outlet in 2017 targeted Latvia-based Meduza. At its peak, the attack reached 300,000 requests per second — 35 times higher than during the attack on The Insider.

In July 2022, experts noted similar attacks to those witnessed on The Insider occurring in regional Russian media outlets. Experts at DDoS protection service StormWall suggested that these attacks were likely orchestrated by amateurs through rented resources. Many of these publications were able to successfully fend off the attacks on their own.

In an investigation published before the attack, The Insider detailed the formation of the Killnet group, a self-proclaimed Russian volunteer “cyber army.” Since the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this group has declared its mission to combat NATO and Nazism, regularly claiming responsibility for DDoS attacks on government and commercial websites in Ukraine and NATO member states. Many of these attacks, however, have been short-lived or unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Russian propaganda media continues to portray Killnet as a patriotic volunteer organization that instills fear across the NATO alliance.

The Insider's report also sheds light on Killnet's funding sources, which include proceeds from drug marketplaces, and explores the group's interactions with other hacker organizations that may have connections to GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.

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