The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued an alert to encourage organizations to proactively implement distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack defenses in the wake of hacktivist assaults, but says incidents so far have had little impact.
Seeking to overload network resources or consume them to render a target inaccessible, DDoS attacks involve directing to the same system a large amount of network traffic originating from multiple sources operating in concert.
Hacktivists, which the FBI regards as groups of cybercriminals engaging in cyber activities in support of ideological, political, or social causes, are known to have conducted DDoS attacks and other cyber operations following high-profile political, socioeconomic, or world events.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was one such event, triggering pro-Russian hacktivist groups to launch DDoS attacks targeting critical infrastructure organizations, albeit with limited success.
Hacktivists, the FBI says in its alert, provide individuals willing to launch cyberattacks on behalf of their cause with the necessary tools, as well as with guidance on cyberattack methodology and techniques.
“DDoS attacks of public facing websites, along with web page and social media profile defacement, are a preferred tactic for many operations. These attacks are generally opportunistic in nature and, with DDoS mitigation steps, have minimal operational impact on victims; however, hacktivists will often publicize and exaggerate the severity of the attacks on social media,” the FBI says.
These actions, the bureau says, often lead to a psychological impact higher than the disruption of service. Moreover, hacktivists have been observed selecting targets based on perceived impact rather than actual service disruption, including high-profile financial, government, health, and transportation entities.
According to the FBI, hacktivists may use open source DDoS services and tools to disrupt public-facing websites, typically claim responsibility for attacks, recycle previously disseminated information to build credibility, and may post news coverage of their assaults, which may lead to copycats targeting the same entities based on received media coverage.
The FBI recommends enrolling in a DDoS protection service, working with the ISP during an assault, implementing a disaster recovery plan to efficiently respond to an attack, and monitoring network assets during and after a DDoS attack, to identify a secondary assault.