Attacks increase as a result of DDoS-for-hire services

DDoS attacks have increased driven by DDoS-for-hire services.
DDoS attacks have increased driven by DDoS-for-hire services.

DDoS attacks have increased in frequency, scale and complexity over the past year, driven by DDoS-for-hire services, according to a new report.

DDoS-for-hire services have caused attacks to become more affordable by enabling unsophisticated threat actors to launch attacks, stated Imperva's DDoS Threat Landscape Report 2015-2016. The proliferation of these services, also known as “stressers” and “booters,” accounted for an increase in the number of DDoS attacks from 63.8 percent in Q2 2015 to 93 percent in Q1 2016.

The U.S. and U.K. are the most frequently targeted countries in DDoS attacks, the report said.

In speaking to SCMagazine.com on Thursday, Tim Matthews, vice president of marketing at Imperva Incapsula, said it has become inexpensive to mount DDoS attacks as these kits become “readily available,” creating a “perverse economic ecosystem.”

Other security pros have noticed a similar trend. Maxim Goncharov, security researcher at Shape, wrote in an email to SCMagazine.com on Thursday that in the underground community, there are “literally thousands of offers from DDoS professionals.”

While a 100-plus GB DDoS attack was virtually unheard of just 18 months ago, attacks of that magnitude are no launched by large scale botnets, according to Tom Kellermann, CEO at Strategic Cyber Ventures. “Mitigation through content delivery and ISP is key here,” wrote Kellermann, formerly CISO of Trend Micro, in an email to SCMagazine.com.

Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, noted in an email to SCMagazine.com on Thursday that her firm has seen a rise in DDoS-as-a-service in recent years, both in number of services and the power of their attacks. “The problem is that these DDoS services are getting more powerful, and these attacks cause a lot of collateral damage,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, due to the widespread availability of DDoS power, many businesses are learning that purchasing DDoS protection is a requirement to engage in commerce.”

Imperva's Matthews said there has been an uptick in job postings that require technical skills and experience countering these attacks.

The rise in DDoS-as-service attacks has become a significant concern for law enforcement, according to William MacArthur, threat intelligence analyst at RiskIQ. The adoption of IPv6 mixed with normal traffic protocol patterns is a method used by attackers that the “current hardware in use in most places of business is not ready to handle,” he wrote in an email to SCMagazine.com on Thursday.

Michael Covington, VP product, Wandera, noted that the increase in sophisticated DDoS attacks causes secondary challenges for organizations. “In many situations, a DDoS attack is just a smokescreen for something else the malicious actor is trying to accomplish, whether it involves installing malware, exfiltrating sensitive data or attacking an associate of the target,” he wrote to this publication.

Yogesh Amle, managing director and head of software at Union Square Advisors, agreed, noting that DDoS “is one of the most prevalent and common tactics used by cyberterrorists." However, he also informed this publication that DDoS attacks are increasingly used to distract businesses. He called DDoS the “gateway” to a bigger prize.

Amle noted that the rise of the DDoS-as-a-service model is an example of a “dark economy” emerging on the internet. “With money to be made, amateurs and sophisticated hackers are jumping into the fray,” he said.

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