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DDoS

‘Massive’ rise in DDoS and password attacks during pandemic

615 410 Stuart O'Brien

New analysis from F5 Labs has discovered a massive rise in DDoS and password login attacks during the pandemic.

In January, the number of all reported SIRT incidents was half the average reported in previous years. However, as lockdowns were put in place from March onwards, there was a sharp rise in incidents.

The attacks can be categorised into two buckets from January to August this year: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks (45%) and password login attacks (43%) which comprised of brute force and credential stuffing attempts.

Other findings include:

  • DDoS attacks surge 3x in March: DDoS made up only a tenth of reported incidents in January, but grew to three times that of all incidents in March.
  • No ‘spring slump’ for DDoS: Typically, DDoS attacks see a ‘spring slump’, but these rose in April 2020. In fact, DDoS attacks targeting web apps increased six-fold from 4% in 2019 to 26% in 2020.
  • Attacks are diversifying: The number of DDoS attacks reported to the SIRT and identified as DNS amplification attacks nearly doubled (31%) this year along with DNS Query Flood which is also on the rise.
  • DDoS most popular in APAC with 83% of attacks: Meanwhile, EMEA saw the next highest with 54%.
  • 67% of all SIRT-reported attacks on retailers in 2020 were passwords attacks: A rise of 27% on last year. This was to be expected as the pandemic has caused a huge shift from in-store sales to online

Full details can be found here: https://www.f5.com/labs/articles/threat-intelligence/how-cyber-attacks-changed-during-the-pandemic.

DDoS attacks ‘sell for as low as $10 per hour’

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By Juta Gurinaviciute, Chief Technology Officer, NordVPN Teams

The recently released Dark Web Price Index 2020 reveals the current average prices for a selection of cybercrime products and services available “on demand.” A basic targeted malware attack in Europe or the US costs $300, while a targeted distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack goes for as little as $10 per hour or $60 for 24 hours. The “salespeople” even offer volume discounts, making such attacks the go-to weapon for online extortion.

According to Nexusguard’s Q1 2020 Threat Report, in the first quarter this year, DDoS attacks increased by more than 278% compared to Q1 2019, and by more than 542% compared to the previous quarter. 

According to Gartner research, the average cost of downtime for a small-to-midsize business is $5,600 per minute. The World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report 2020” reveals that, in the United States, the chances of catching and prosecuting a cybercrime actor are almost nil (0.05%). At the same time, the impact on the targeted companies’ business is massive. IBM’s “Cost of a Data Breach Report” pegs the average cost of a security breach at $3.92 million.

Suffering a DDoS attack could be inevitable, especially if the business operates in a high-risk industry. Regardless of the solutions you implement, your company should incorporate a DDoS response procedure into your official business continuity plan. According to Ponemon Institute research, firms that can respond to a security incident quickly and contain the damage can save 26% or more on the total costs of the event cleanup.

‘One reason why DDoS attacks are so inexpensive is that more and more people that offer DDoS-for-hire services are leveraging the scale and bandwidth of public clouds. With remote work becoming the new standard and with emphasis on home internet connectivity at an all time high, proper security measures to mitigate these attacks have never been more important.

What is a DDoS attack?

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a serious threat to modern network security. Their goal is to take down the target by either flooding traffic or triggering a crash. These attacks are often sourced from virtual machines in the cloud rather than from the attacker’s own machine, which is done to achieve anonymity and higher network bandwidth.

Typically, these types of attacks are run through botnets — networks of computer devices hijacked and infected by bots to carry out various scams and cyberattacks. A bot is a piece of malicious software that gets orders from another device or attacker. A computer becomes infected when a worm or virus installs the bot, or when the user visits a malicious website that exploits a vulnerability in the browser.

These days, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations around the globe are embracing remote work at unprecedented rates. This has made online services of all kinds — from governments to banks and e-commerce to e-learning — more vulnerable to criminals, and DDoS attacks more alluring as a means of extortion. Such attacks don’t cost much and can produce excellent returns. When online connections are stopped or significantly slowed for even a few hours, employees’ work is disrupted, and customers can’t buy anything, which all leads to damaged revenues and public image of the organization.

How to protect company data

Without early threat detection and traffic profiling systems, it’s impossible to know a DDoS attack has occurred. In fact, you will only know about it when your website slows down or comes to a complete halt.

These attacks target data, applications, and infrastructure simultaneously to increase the chances of success. To fight them, an integrated security strategy protecting all infrastructure levels is necessary.

  • Develop a Denial of Service response plan. Make sure your data center is prepared, a checklist is in place, and your team is aware of their responsibilities.
  • Secure your network infrastructure. This includes advanced intrusion prevention and threat management systems — which combine firewalls, VPN, anti-spam, content filtering — and load balancing. Together, they enable constant and consistent network protection against DDoS attacks.
  • Make sure your systems are up to date. By regularly patching your infrastructure and installing new software versions, you can close more doors to attackers.
  • Leverage the cloud. Cloud-based apps can curb harmful or malicious traffic before it ever reaches its intended destination. Such services are operated by software engineers whose job is to monitor the web for the latest DDoS tactics and attack vectors.
  • Avoid public or unsecured Wi-Fi. If your remote team must log in to an account on a network you don’t trust, use a VPN to encrypt all communications. Even bank websites can be forged to be almost undetectable. So, if an attacker has administrative access to the network you’re using, a data breach may occur.

The five most famous DDoS attacks

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Adrian Taylor, Regional VP of Sales, A10 Networks  

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are now everyday occurrences. Whether you’re a small non-profit or a huge multinational conglomerate, your online services—email, websites, anything that faces the internet—can be slowed or completely stopped by a DDoS attack. Moreover, DDoS attacks are sometimes used to distract your cybersecurity operations while other criminal activity, such as data theft or network infiltration, is underway. 

DDoS attacks are getting bigger and more frequent 

The first known Distributed Denial of Service attack occurred in 1996 when Panix, now one of the oldest internet service providers, was knocked offline for several days by a SYN flood, a technique that has become a classic DDoS attack. Over the next few years DDoS attacks became common and  Cisco predicts that the total number of DDoS attacks will double  from the 7.9 million seen in 2018 to something over 15 million by 2023. 

But it’s not just the number of DDoS attacks that are increasing; as the bad guys are creating ever bigger botnets – the term for the armies of hacked devices that are used to generate DDoS traffic. As the botnets get bigger, the scale of DDoS attacks is also increasing. A Distributed Denial of Service attack of one gigabit per second is enough to knock most organisations off the internet but we’re now seeing peak attack sizes in excess of one terabit per second generated by hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of suborned devices.  Given that  IT services downtime costs companies  anywhere from $300,000 to over $1,000,000 per hour, you can see that the financial hit from even a short DDoS attack could seriously damage your bottom line.  

So we’re going to take a look at some of the most notable DDoS attacks to date. Our choices include some DDoS attacks that are famous for their sheer scale while others are because of their impact and consequences. 

  1. The AWS DDoS Attack in 2020

Amazon Web Services, the 800-pound gorilla of everything cloud computing, was hit by a gigantic DDoS attack in February 2020. This was the most extreme recent DDoS attack ever and it targeted an unidentified AWS customer using a technique called Connectionless Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (CLDAP) Reflection. This technique relies on vulnerable third-party CLDAP servers and amplifies the amount of data sent to the victim’s IP address by 56 to 70 times. The attack lasted for three days and peaked at an astounding 2.3 terabytes per second. While the  disruption caused by the AWS DDoS Attack  was far less severe than it could have been, the sheer scale of the attack and the implications for AWS hosting customers potentially losing revenue and suffering brand damage are significant. 

2. The MiraiKrebs and OVH DDoS Attacks in 2016

On September 20, 2016, the blog of cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs was assaulted by a DDoS attack in excess of 620 Gbps, which at the time, was the largest attack ever seen. Krebs had recorded 269 DDoS attacks since July 2012, but this attack was almost three times bigger than anything his site or, for that matter, the internet had seen before.  

The source of the attack was the Mirai botnet, which, at its peak later that year, consisted of more than 600,000 compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as IP cameras, home routers, and video players. Mirai had been discovered in August that same year but the attack on Krebs’ blog was its first big outing. 

The next Mirai attack on September 19 targeted one of the largest European hosting providers, OVH, which hosts roughly 18 million applications for over one million clients. This attack was on a single undisclosed OVH customer and driven by an estimated  145,000 bots, generating a traffic load  of up to  1.1 terabits per second, and lasted about seven days.  The Mirai botnet was a significant step up in how powerful a DDoS attack could be. The size and sophistication of the Mirai network was unprecedented, as was the scale of the attacks and their focus. 

3. The MiraiDyn DDoS Attack in 2016

Before we discuss the third notable Mirai DDoS attack of 2016, there’s one related event that should be mentioned: On September 30, someone claiming to be the author of the Mirai software released the source code on various hacker forums and the Mirai DDoS platform has been replicated and mutated scores of times since. 

On October 21, 2016, Dyn, a major Domain Name Service (DNS) provider, was assaulted by a one terabit per second traffic flood that then became the new record for a DDoS attack. There’s some evidence that  the DDoS attack may have actually achieved a rate of 1.5 terabits per second. The traffic tsunami knocked Dyn’s services offline rendering a number of high-profile websites including GitHub, HBO, Twitter, Reddit, PayPal, Netflix, and Airbnb, inaccessible. Kyle York, Dyn’s chief strategy officer, reported, “We observed  10s of millions of discrete IP addresses associated with the Mirai botnet  that were part of the attack.” 

Mirai supports complex, multi-vector attacks that make mitigation difficult. Even though Mirai was responsible for the biggest assaults up to that time, the most notable thing about the 2016 Mirai attacks was the release of the Mirai source code enabling anyone with modest information technology skills to create a botnet and mount a Distributed Denial of Service attack without much effort.

4. The Six Banks DDoS Attack in 2012

On March 12, 2012,  six U.S. banks were targeted by a wave of DDoS attacks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and PNC Bank. The attacks were carried out by hundreds of hijacked servers from a botnet called Brobot with each attack generating over 60 gigabits of DDoS attack traffic per second. 

At the time, these attacks were unique in their persistence: Rather than trying to execute one attack and then backing down, the perpetrators barraged their targets with a multitude of attack methods in order to find one that worked. So, even if a bank was equipped to deal with a few types of DDoS attacks, they were helpless against other types of attack. 

The most remarkable aspect of the bank attacks in 2012 was that the attacks were, allegedly, carried out by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas organisation. Moreover, the attacks had a huge impact on the affected banks in terms of revenue, mitigation expenses, customer service issues, and the banks’ branding and image. 

5. The GitHub Attack in 2018

On Feb. 28, 2018, GitHub—a platform for software developers—was hit with a  DDoS attack that clocked in at 1.35 terabits per second  and lasted for roughly 20 minutes.  According to GitHub, the traffic was traced back to “over a thousand different autonomous systems (ASNs) across tens of thousands of unique endpoints.” 

Even though GitHub was well prepared for a DDoS attack their defences were overwhelmed—they simply had no way of knowing that an attack of this scale would be launched.  

The GitHub DDoS attack was notable for its scale and the fact that the attack was staged by exploiting a standard command of Memcached, a database caching system for speeding up websites and networks. The Memcached DDoS attack technique is particularly effective as it provides an amplification factor – the ratio of the attacker’s request size to the amount of  DDoS attack traffic generated – of up to a staggering 51,200 times.

And that concludes our top five line up – it is a sobering insight into just how powerful, persistent and disruptive DDoS attacks have become.   

If you are looking for additional insights around this topic, why not download our latest report,  The State of DDoS Weapons

The growing DDoS landscape 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”