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DDoS

The growing DDoS landscape 

960 640 Guest Post

By Anthony Webb, EMEA Vice President at A10 Networks  

Last month, news reports highlighted one of the biggest DDoS attacks ever recorded. The attack, which targeted a large European bank, generated 809m packets per second (Mpps). This is a new industry record for a PPS-focused attack which is more than double the size of previous attacks. A10 Networks recently launched its Q2 2020: State of DDoS Weapons Report, based on approximately 10 million unique source addresses tracked by A10 Networks, and the report sheds more light on the loud, distributed nature of DDoS attacks and the key trends and observations that enterprises can learn from when adopting a successful defence. 

DDoS Botnet Agents  

We’ve previously written about how IoT devices and DDoS attacks are a perfect match. IoT devices such as smart watches, routers and cameras are now commonly infected by malware and under the control of malicious actors who use them to launch flexible DDoS attacks. Our researchers accumulated knowledge of repeatedly used hosts in these attacks, scanning for those that show malware-infected characteristics that deserve to be treated with caution whilst under a DDoS attack.  

The report highlighted the top three countries hosting DDoS botnet agents as follows: 

·        China 15% 

·        Vietnam 12% 

·        Taiwan 9% 

From the countries above, the top ASNs hosting DDoS botnet agents were: 

·        Chungwha Telecoms (Taiwan) 

·        China Telecom 

·        China Unicom CN 

·        VNPT Corp (Vietnam) 

Malware Proliferation 

With IoT devices vulnerable, largely due to devices lacking the necessary built-in security to counter threats, this allows threat actors an opportunity to target these devices, through a collection of remote code execution (RCE) exploits and an ever growing list of default user names and passwords from device vendors, to constantly increase the size and strength of DDoS attacks. Our weapons intelligence system detects hundreds of thousands of events per hour on the internet, providing insights into the top IoT exploits and the attack capabilities.  

One of the key report findings highlighted thousands of malware binaries being dropped into systems, in the wake of the different IoT-based attacks and exploits. Among the malware families that were most frequent in attack were the following: Gafgyt family, Dark Nexus and Mirai family. The related binary names from these malwares were arm7, Cloud.x86, mmmmh.x86 respectively. 

Digging deeper into the characteristics and behaviour of the binary we saw the most this quarter, “arm7”, we found that attack types came in varied forms including, but not limited to, TCP floods, HTTP floods and UDP floods. To mitigate these attacks a firm understanding of these DDoS weapons needs to be established by understanding and reverse engineering the attack toolkits. 

Amplified Attacks  

When it comes to large-scale DDoS attacks, amplified reflection is the most effective. An example of this is when the attacker sends volumes of small requests with the spoofed victim’s IP address to internet-exposed servers. The servers reply with large amplified responses to the unwitting victim. These particular servers are targeted because they answer to unauthenticated requests and are running applications or protocols with amplification capabilities. 

The most common types of these attacks can use millions of exposed DNS, NTP, SSDP, SNMP, and CLDAP UDP-based services. These attacks have resulted in record-breaking volumetric attacks, such as the recent CLDAP-based AWS attack in Q1 2020, which peaked at 2.3 Tbps and was 70% higher than the previous record holder, the 1.35 Tbps Memcached-based GitHub attack of 2018. Although CLDAP does not make the top 5 list of our Amplification attack weapons in Q2, we did record 15,651 potential CLDAP weapons. This makes it a fraction of the top amplification attack weapon this quarter, i.e., portmap, where for every CLDAP weapon, we have 116 portmap weapons available to attackers. The AWS attack shows that even this fractional attack surface has the potential for generating very large-scale DDoS attacks and the only way to protect against these attacks is to proactively keep track of DDoS weapons and potential exploits. 

Battling the Landscape  

Every quarter, the findings of our DDoS attack research point to one thing: the need for increased security. Sophisticated DDoS weapons intelligence, combined with real-time threat detection and automated signature extraction, will allow organisations to defend against even the most massive multi-vector DDoS attacks, no matter where they originate. Actionable DDoS weapons intelligence enables a proactive approach to DDoS defences by creating blacklists based on current and accurate feeds of IP addresses of DDoS botnets and available vulnerable servers commonly used for DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are not going away, and it is time for organisations to match their attackers’ sophistication with a stronger defence, especially as new technology like IoT and 5G continue to gain further momentum.   

Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay 

Financial services organisations ‘increasingly prone to authentication and DDoS attacks’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Financial services organisations have experienced a significant increase in the number of authentication and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks over the past three years.

That’s according to research from F5 Labs, which says the opposite was true of web attacks, which were notably down during the same period.

The analysis, which examined customer security incident response (SIRT) data from 2017-2019, covered banks, credit unions, brokers, insurance, and the wide range of organisations that serve them, such as payment processors and financial Software as a Service (SaaS).

On average, brute force and credential stuffing constituted 41% of all attacks on financial services organisations over the full three-year period. The percentage of attacks grew from 37% in 2017 to a high point of 42% in 2019.

Brute force attacks involve a bad actor attempting large volumes of usernames and passwords against an authentication endpoint. Other forms of brute force attacks simply use common lists of default credential pairs (for example, admin/admin), commonly used passwords, or even randomly generated password strings.

Occasionally, brute force attacks leverage credentials that have been obtained from other breaches. These are then used to target the service in an attack known as “credential stuffing.” 

Delving deeper, F5’s SIRT team found that there were clear regional variations in attack trends. In EMEA, brute force and credential stuffing attacks only amounted to 20% of the total, which is higher than the 15% observed in Asia Pacific but significantly lower than North America’s 64%. The latter is likely driven by a large volume of existing breached credentials.

“The first indications of an authentication attack are often customer complaints about account lockouts, rather than any sort of automated detection,” said Raymond Pompon, Director at F5 Labs.

“Early detection is key. If defenders can identify an increase in failed login attempts over a short period of time, it gives them a window of opportunity to act before customers are affected.”

DDoS attacks were the second biggest threat to financial services organisations, accounting for 32% of all reported incidents between 2017 and 2019. It is also the fastest growing threat. In 2017, 26% of attacks on financial services organisations focused on DDoS.  The figure soared to 42% in 2019.

Yet again there were distinct regional variations. 50% of all attacks reported in EMEA over the three-year period were DDoS-related. Asia Pacific was similarly affected with 55%, but the volume dropped to 22% in North America.

According to F5 Labs, denial-of-service attacks against financial service providers usually target either the core services used by customers (such as DNS) or the applications that allow users to access online services (i.e. viewing bills or applying for loans). Attacks are often sourced from all over the world, likely via the use of large botnets that are either rented out by attackers, or purpose-built from compromised machines.

“The ability to quickly identify the characteristics of traffic when under attack conditions is critically important. It is also vital to quickly enable in-depth logging for application services in order to identify unusual queries,” Pompon explained.

While authentication and DDoS attacks continue to spread, there was also a concurrent dip drop in web attacks against financial services organisations. In 2017 and 2018, they accounted for 11% of all incidents. In 2019, it was just 4%. 

“While it is difficult to determine causality, one likely factor driving this trend is the growing sophistication of properly implemented technical controls such as web application firewalls (WAFs),” said Pompon.

F5 Labs’ 2018 Application Protection Report found that a greater proportion of financial organisations tend to deploy WAFs (31%) than the average across all industries (26%).

Most of the web attacks recorded by the F5 SIRT centred on APIs, including those related to mobile authentication portals and Open Financial Exchange (OFX). Web scraping –copying content for the purpose of creating realistic phishing pages – was also in evidence. 

F5 Labs suggests that web attacks against financial services targets tend to be more persistent compared to other sectors – partly due to the cybercriminals’ precise targeting and the potential high value of success.

F5 Labs’ analysis concludes that, although the financial services industry tends to require less convincing about the merits of substantive security programs, there is no room for complacency.

“Despite the valuable assets at stake, it can still be a challenge to convince some organisations of the need for multifactor authentication, which probably represents the most impactful way to prevent nearly all access-style attacks like brute force, credential stuffing, and phishing,” said Pompon.

“Having said that, there is still a lot that can be done. On the preventative side this includes hardening APIs and implementing a vulnerability management program that features external scanning and regular patching. On the detective side, it is critical to continually monitor traffic for traces of brute force and credential stuffing. As ever, it is essential to develop, and regularly practice, procedures for incident response that address all risks.”

What you need to know about DDoS weapons today

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Adrian Taylor, Regional VP of Sales for A10 Networks

A DDoS attack can bring down almost any website or online service. The premise is simple: using an infected botnet to target and overwhelm vulnerable servers with massive traffic. Twenty years after its introduction, DDoS remains as effective as ever—and continues to grow in frequency, intensity, and sophistication. That makes DDoS defence a top cybersecurity priority for every organisation. The first step: understanding the threat you face.

To help organisations take a proactive approach to DDoS defence, A10 Networks recently published a report on the current DDoS landscape, including the weapons being used, the locations where attacks are being launched, the services being exploited, and the methods hackers are using to maximise the damage they inflict. Based on nearly six million weapons tracked by A10 Networks in Q4 2019, the study provides timely, in-depth threat intelligence to inform your defence strategy.

Here are a few of our key findings.

Reflected Amplification Takes DDoS to the Next Level

The SNMP and SSDP protocols have long been top sources for DDoS attacks, and this trend continued in Q4 2019, with nearly 1.4 million SNMP weapons and nearly 1.2 million SSDP weapons tracked. But in an alarming development, WS-Discovery attacks have risen sharply, to nearly 800,000, to become the third most common source of DDoS. The shift is due in part to the growing popularity of attacks using misconfigured IoT devices to amplify an attack.

In this key innovation, known as reflected amplification, hackers are turning their attention to the exploding number of internet-exposed IoT devices running the WS-Discovery protocol. Designed to support a broad variety of IoT use cases, WS-Discovery is a multicast, UDP-based communications protocol used to automatically discover web-connected services. Critically, WS-Discovery does not perform IP source validation, making it a simple matter for attackers to spoof the victim’s IP address, at which point the victim will be deluged with data from nearby IoT devices.

With over 800,000 WS-Directory hosts available for exploitation, reflected amplification has proven highly effective—with observed amplification of up to 95x. Reflected amplification attacks have reached record-setting scale, such as the 1.3 Tbps Memcached-based GitHub attack, and account for the majority of DDoS attacks. They’re also highly challenging to defend; only 46 percent of attacks respond on port 3702 as expected, while 54 percent respond over high ports. Most of the discovered inventory to date has been found in Vietnam, Brazil, United States, the Republic of Korea, and China.

DDoS is Going Mobile

Unlike more stealthy exploits, DDoS attacks are loud and overt, allowing defenders to detect their launch point. While these weapons are globally distributed, the greatest number of attacks originate in countries with the greatest density in internet connectivity, including China, the United States, and the Republic of Korea.

A10 Networks has also tracked the hosting of DDoS weapons by autonomous number systems (ASNs), or collections of IP address ranges under the control of a single company or government. With the exception of the United States, the top ASNs hosting DDoS weapons track closely with the countries hosting the majority of attacks, including Chinanet, Guangdong Mobile Communication Co. Ltd., and Korea Telecom.

In another key trend, the prevalence of DDoS weapons hosted by mobile carriers skyrocketed near the end of 2019. In fact, the top reflected amplified source detected was Guangdong Mobile Communication Co. Ltd., with Brazilian mobile company Claro S.A. the top source of malware-infected drones.

The Worst is Yet to Come

With IoT devices coming online at a rate of 127 per second and accelerating, hackers are poised to enter a golden age of possibilities. In fact, new strains of DDoS malware in the Mirai family are already targeting Linux-powered IoT devices—and they’ll only increase as 5G brings massive increases in network speed and coverage. Meanwhile, DDoS-for-hire services and bot herders continue to make it easier than ever for any bad actor to launch a lethal targeted attack.

The A10 Networks report makes clear the importance of a complete DDoS defence strategy. Businesses and carriers must leverage sophisticated DDoS threat intelligence, combined with real-time threat detection, to defend against DDoS attacks no matter where they originate. Methods such as automated signature extraction and blacklists of the IP addresses of DDoS botnets and available vulnerable servers can help organisations proactively defend themselves even before the attacks starts.

For additional insight, including the top IoT port searches and reflector searches performed by attackers, download the complete A10 Networks report, “Q4 2019: The State of DDoS Weapons” and see the accompanying infographic, “DDoS Weapons & Attack Vectors.”

GUEST BLOG: The Growing DDoS Landscape

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By Anthony Webb, EMEA Vice President at A10 Networks

A new wave of DDoS attacks on South Africa’s internet service provider has highlighted that these attacks continue to grow in frequency, intensity and sophistication.

A10 Networks’ recent report on the Q2 2019: The State of DDoS Weapons has shed more light on the loud, distributed nature of DDoS attacks and the key trends that enterprises can learn from in adopting a successful defence.

IoT: A Hotbed for DDoS Botnets

A10 Networks has previously written that IoT devices and DDoS attacks are a perfect match. With the explosion of the Internet of Things (growing at a rate of 127 connected devices per second and accelerating), attackers target vulnerable connected devices and have even begun to develop a new strain of malware named Silex- a strain just for IoT devices. Silex affected 1650 devices in over an hour and wiped the firmware of IoT devices in attacks reminiscent of the old BrickerBot malware that destroyed millions of devices back in 2017.

The report has highlighted the top-three IoT binary dropped by malware families – two of the three belonged to Mirai – with the Netherlands, UK, USA, Germany and Russia being the top five hosting malware droppers.

The New IoT Threat

A new threat has emerged due to industry-wide adoption of technology with weak security: the UDP implementation of the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP). This new threat does not have anything to do with Mirai or malware, but its impact has enabled millions of IoT devices to become weaponised as reflected amplification cannons. CoAP is a machine-to-machine (M2M) management protocol, deployed on IoT devices supporting applications such as smart energy and building automation. CoAP is a protocol implemented for both TCP and UDP and does not require authentication to reply with a large response to a small request. A10 identified over 500,000 vulnerable IoT devices with an average response size of 749 bytes. The report also highlights that 98% of CoAP threats originate from China and Russia, with the capability to amplify by 35x.

On the Horizon: 5G

Ericsson recently predicted that the number of IoT devices with cellular connection will reach 4.1 billion by 2024. 5G, with its higher data speeds and lower latency, will be the primary driver behind this rapid expansion. Whilst this is great news in an open dynamic world, the downside is that we will also see an increase in the DDoS weaponry available to attackers.

We have seen mobile carriers hosting DDoS weapons skyrocket over the last six months. Companies such as T-Mobile, Guangdong Mobile and China Mobile have been guilty of amplifying attacks. With 5G, intelligent automation aided by machine learning and AI will become essential to detecting and mitigating threats. IoT devices by Linux are already the target of a new strain of malware which is predominantly dedicated to running DDoS attacks.

Amplified Attack

Amplified reflection attacks exploit the connectionless nature of the UDP protocol with spoofed requests to misconfigured open servers on the internet. Attackers send volumes of small requests with the spoofed victim’s IP address to exposed servers, which are targeted because they’re configured with services that can amplify the attack. These attacks have resulted in record-breaking volumetric attacks, such as the 1.3 Tbps Memcached-based GitHub attack in 2018, and account for many DDoS attacks.

Battling the landscape

Every quarter, the findings of our DDoS attack research point to one thing: the need for increased security. Sophisticated DDoS weapons intelligence, combined with real-time threat detection and automated signature extraction, will allow organisations to defend against even the most massive multi-vector DDoS attacks, no matter where they originate. Actionable DDoS weapons intelligence enables a proactive approach to DDoS defences by creating blacklists based on current and accurate feeds of IP addresses of DDoS botnets and available vulnerable servers commonly used for DDoS attacks. With DDoS attacks not going away, it’s time for organisations to match their attackers’ sophistication with a stronger defence, especially as new technology like IoT and 5G gains momentum.

Top 10 IT security predictions for 2018

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Ian Kilpatrick, executive vice president for cyber security company, Nuvias Group, offers his top 10 IT security predictions for the year ahead…

1. Security blossoms in the boardroom

Sadly, security breaches will continue to be a regular occurrence in 2018 and organisations will struggle to deal with them. New security challenges will abound and these will grab attention in the boardroom. Senior management is increasingly focusing on security issues and recognising them as a core business risk, rather than the responsibility of the IT department alone. The coming year will see further commitment from the boardroom to ensure that organisations are protected.

2. Ransomware has not gone away

Too much money is being made from ransomware for it to disappear – it won’t. According to Cyber Security Ventures, global ransomware damage costs for 2017 will exceed US$ 5 billion, with the average amount paid in ransom among office workers around US$ 1400. Companies can help prevent ransomware by tracking everything coming in and out of the network and running AV solutions with anti- ransomware protection. And, of course, you should do regular backups to a structured plan, based around your own business requirements – and make sure you test the plans.

3. IoT – A security time-bomb

IoT is a rapidly growing phenomenon which will accelerate in 2018, as both consumers and businesses opt for the convenience and benefits that IoT brings. However, manufacturers are not yet routinely building security into IoT devices and 2018 will see further problems generated through the use of insecure IoT. IoT is a major threat and possibly the biggest threat to businesses in the coming years. Unfortunately, it is not easy, and in some cases impossible, to bolt on security as an afterthought with IoT, and many organisations will find it challenging to deal with the consequences of such breaches. As IoT cascades through organisations’ infrastructures, it is likely to become the ultimate Trojan horse.

4. More from the Shadow Brokers

The Shadow Brokers, a hacker group which stole hacking tools from the American National Security Agency (NSA), created havoc in 2017 with the Wannacry ransomware episode. The group has already stated that it will soon release newer NSA hacking tools, with targets that might include vulnerabilities in Windows 10.

There will certainly be further episodes from them in 2018, so patch management, security and regular backups will be more crucial than ever. A major target of these hackers is the data that organisations hold, including PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and corporate data, so protecting the data ‘crown jewels’ inside the network will become ever more crucial.

5. GDPR – Have most businesses missed the point?

The arrival of GDPR in May 2018 will, of course, be a big story. However, many organisations are missing the main point about GDPR. It is about identifying, protecting and managing PII – any information that could potentially identify a specific individual. This will become more important in 2018 and there will be considerable focus on identifying, securing and, where required, deleting PII held on networks.

6. GDPR Blackmail – The new ransomware?

Unfortunately, GDPR will give a great opportunity to criminals, hackers, disgruntled staff and anyone who might want to do an organisation harm. They simply have to ask you to identify what data you hold on them, ask for it to be erased, and ask for proof that it has been done. If you can’t comply, they can threaten to go public – exposing you to the risk of huge fines – unless you pay them money. Watch out for that one!

7. DDoS on the rise

It is now possible for anyone to ‘rent’ a DDoS attack on the internet. For as little as US$ 5, you can actually pay someone to do the attack for you! https://securelist.com/the-cost-of-launching-a-ddos-attack/77784/. This is just one of the reasons DDoS threats will continue to escalate in 2018, alongside the cost of dealing with them. The dangers of DDoS for smaller companies are that it will leave them unable to do business. For larger organisations, DDoS attacks can overwhelm systems. Remember that DDoS is significantly under-reported, as no-one wants to admit they have been under attack!

8. Cloud insecurity – It’s up to you

Problems with cloud insecurity will continue to grow in 2018 as users put more and more data on the cloud, without, in many cases, properly working out how to secure it. It is not the cloud providers’ responsibility to secure the information – it is down to the user. With the introduction of GDPR in 2018, it will be even more important to ensure that PII stored in the cloud is properly protected. Failure to do so could bring serious financial consequences.

9. The insider threat

Historically, insider threats have been underestimated, yet they were still a primary cause of security incidents in 2017. The causes may be malicious actions by staff or simply poor staff cyber-hygiene – i.e. staff not using the appropriate behaviour required to ensure online “health.” In 2018, there will be growth in cyber education, coupled with more testing, measuring and monitoring of staff behaviour. This increasingly involves training and automated testing, such as simulated phishing and social engineering attacks.

10. Time to ditch those simple passwords

In 2018, simple passwords will be even more highlighted as an insecure ‘secure’ method of access. Once a password is compromised, then all other sites with that same user password are also vulnerable. As staff often use the same passwords for business as they use personally, businesses are left vulnerable. While complex passwords do have a superficial attraction, there are many challenges around that approach and multi-factor authentication is a vastly superior method of access.

A third of UK infrastructure fails to meet basic cyber security standards

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

According to Freedom of Information requests by Corero Network Security, over a third of the UK’s critical infrastructure doesn’t meet the most basic cybersecurity standards.

The fact that so many infrastructure organisations have not completed the ’10 Steps to Cyber Security’ programme indicates a lack of cyber resilience within organisations which are critical to the functioning of UK society. It also suggests that some of these organisations could be liable for fines of up to £17m, or four per cent of global turnover, under the UK Government’s proposals to implement the EU’s Network and Information Systems (NIS) directive, from May 2018.

The Freedom of Information requests were sent by Corero, in March 2017, to 338 critical infrastructure organisations in the UK, including fire and rescue services, police forces, ambulance trusts, NHS trusts, energy suppliers and transport organisations. In total, 163 responses were received, with 63 organisations (39%) admitting to not having completed the ’10 Steps’ programme. Among responses from NHS Trusts, 42% admitted not having completed the programme.

Sean Newman, Director of Product Management at Corero, said: “Cyber attacks against national infrastructure have the potential to inflict significant, real-life disruption and prevent access to critical services that are vital to the functioning of our economy and society. These findings suggest that many such organisations are not as cyber resilient as they should be, in the face of growing and sophisticated cyber threats.”

Worryingly, the Freedom of Information data revealed that most UK critical infrastructure organisations (51%) are potentially vulnerable to these attacks, because they do not detect or mitigate short-duration surgical DDoS attacks on their networks. As a result, just 5% of these infrastructure operators admitted to experiencing DDoS attacks on their networks in the past year (to March 2017). However, if 90% of the DDoS attacks on their networks are also shorter than 30 minutes, as experienced by Corero customers, the real figure could be considerably higher.

Newman continued: “In the face of a DDoS attack, time is of the essence. Delays of minutes, tens-of-minutes, or more, before a DDoS attack is mitigated is not sufficient to ensure service availability, and could significantly impact the essential services provided by critical infrastructure organisations.

“By not detecting and investigating these short, surgical, DDoS attacks on their networks, infrastructure organisations could also be leaving their doors wide open for malware or ransomware attacks, data theft or more serious cyber attacks. To keep up with the growing sophistication and organisation of well-equipped and well-funded threat actors, it’s essential that organisations maintain comprehensive visibility across their networks, to instantly and automatically detect and block any potential DDoS incursions, as they arise.”

Employee Security Risk

SMB’s ‘lack of concern’ regarding Ransomware threat an issue

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A new report from security vendor Webroot has revealed that less than half of small and medium sized businesses think they’re at risk of suffering a ransomware attack in 2017, despite the fact that more than 60 per cent have already been affected.

600 IT decision makers at companies with 100-499 employees from across the UK, US and Australia were contacted to compile and publish Webroot’s latest report ‘Cyber Threats to Small and Medium Sized Businesses in 2017’.

Only 42 per cent thought that ransomware was a major external security threat for the company, despite the recent major global attacks such as WannaCry and Petya.

However, almost 100 per cent of all IT decision makers polled for the report said they would be increasing their annual IT security budget in 2017.

72 per cent of UK IT decision makers said their business wouldn’t be fully prepared to combat threats, such as DDoS, phishing and other forms of malware infections.

“The lack of concern about ransomware is leaving a gaping hole in the security of global businesses, as witnessed by the recent outbreaks of WannaCry and not-Petya,” said Webroot’s EMEA regional manager, Adam Nash.

“This, combined with the UK’s false sense of security when it comes to businesses’ ability to manage external threats, is worrying. Small- to medium-sized businesses can no longer afford to put security on the back burner and need to start engaging with the issues and trends affecting the industry.”