As the threat landscape continues to evolve, one malicious tactic has stood the test of time: distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). They carry on as a preferred means of assault on networks around the world, and they're getting more prevalent and sophisticated.
According to a recent report from Prolexic, a security firm that specializes in DDoS protection, there was an 88 percent increase in the total number of DDoS attacks in the third quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
The common method associated with this threat involves an attacker pummeling a target with illegitimate traffic through the use of botnets – to the point where its online services are unavailable. While it may seem like a mere nuisance, an attack of this nature is detrimental to any enterprise that relies on a majority of its revenue to be generated online.
The recent attacks that downed the websites of major financial institutions, such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, have proved that DDoS is evolving. Rather than opting for a botnet's army of zombie computers, the perpetrators leveraged a slew of compromised servers to launch their attacks, which flooded networks with up to 60 gigabits per second of traffic coming from each infected server.
A DDoS service toolkit known as “itsoknoproblembro” was believed to be the weapon behind the financial assaults. Capable of attacking several layers of a website's networking stack, according to Prolexic, any mitigation provider would struggle dealing with this type of strike.
And, the prevalence and advancements of these malicious DDoS methods may be bolstered by the overall decrease in spam. As spam filters have gotten better, botnet masters have found that DDoS attacks are a worthy replacement to ensure they continue to see a high return on investment, said Matthew Prince, CEO and founder of CloudFlare, a web performance and security firm.
Motives surrounding DDoS attacks vary, from cyber warfare to hacktivism, but the one constant is that their maturation is what makes them difficult to defend against, said Dan Holden, director of Arbor Network's Security Engineering and Response Team. And further complicating matters is that whether they are using a service provider or a hybrid cloud partner, many enterprises simply don't own or have full visibility into their own network. “Fundamentally the internet is just a different place,” Holden said.