A TDoS attack ain’t nothin’ pretty. Sadly, Metrolocks and other locksmith companies in the UK have been subjected to heavy TDoS abuse by an unknown source, presumably an aggressive competitor.
What is TDoS?
TDoS stands for telephony denial of service. Denial of service is when somebody essentially clogs your system so that it’s not possible for you to provide your service.
Most commonly, it’s computer servers that are attacked. For instance, an attacker might overload the bandwidth of a competitor’s website, so that customers can’t load it.
Telephone attacks are similar: you get inundated with phone calls to the extent that you simply can’t cope and have to turn your phone off. We were getting 8000 calls a day. Eight thousand.
Just let that sink in. Eight thousand calls in one day.
Denial of service attacks are a criminal offence in the United Kingdom, as well as many other countries.
What actually is happening?
The specific type of attack we’re having is a so-called distributed TDoS attack. This means that the attacker’s software uses an infinite number of fake telephone numbers with which to call us.
We therefore get loads of calls from different numbers, none of which are ‘real’ (in other words, you can’t call them back). Consequently, you can’t just block one phone number to stop the harassment.
When you pick up these calls, mostly nothing happens. Sometimes you might get a ‘busy’ tone on the other end, sometimes a Stephen Hawking-style voice says “Hello”, but mostly you pick up the phone and hear nothing.
There’s no way to distinguish the TDoS phone call from a legitimate call, because the call always comes from a normal UK number.
Why is it happening?
We suspect it’s a competitor who is trying to corner the market. If customers can’t get through to anybody’s number except the perpetrator’s, then they have no choice but to use their service.
While we’re fully in favour of proper competition among locksmiths, allowing everyone the chance to thrive, this sort of tactic is downright sinister and utterly unacceptable.
TDoS affects Google AdWords
The locksmiths who have been affected by this TDoS attack all have one thing in common: we all use Google AdWords, Google’s search engine advertisement service. We suspect that the crooks behind the TDoS attack also use AdWords, and are trying to eliminate competitors from advertising there.
If you get rid of all rivals on AdWords, it means you can save substantial amounts of advertising money, due to the way in which costs are calculated on the service. This is an added incentive for our attackers.
If a locksmith can’t trust Google’s democratic AdWords platform for fear of being attacked by a vicious predator, then where does that leave the countless honest folk trying to make a living in an otherwise healthy locksmith market?
What’s more, where does it leave all of the locksmith consumers out there whose choice of service is stifled without them even knowing? They’re equally shafted.
What next for Metrolocks?
After consulting our telephone provider, we have a couple of workarounds in place. We’re spreading the word among locksmiths so that they can prepare themselves, too.
The measures in place don’t prevent the calls, nor do they help us in tracking down and stopping the criminal who is causing it. However, they do prevent us from being totally crippled by the calls. It’s no longer possible (we hope) to inundate us with thousands of calls a day.
On the bright side, it could be worse…
While TDoS attacks are an unforgivable nuisance, especially on the scale we’ve been experiencing, I have read of cases where TDoS is only part of a much bigger denial-of-service attack.
Picture this: you’re part of an enormous organisation, like an internet service provider or a utility company. Your customer service helpline falls victim to a TDoS attack and so all the company’s tech boffins focus their attention on the attack. Meanwhile, while nobody’s watching, the attackers make another attack, this time hacking into your database and compromising all of your customers’ data.
It’s a big bad world out there, folks. Stay safe.
Use Metrolocks for all you locksmith needs!
We’re a London-wide locksmith firm with over 25 years’ experience, ready to step in at short notice.