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IoT Devices Fuel Complex DDoS Attacks: Report

The continuous use of compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has helped cybercriminals increase the complexity of their assaults, NETSCOUT Arbor says. 

The continuous use of compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has helped cybercriminals increase the complexity of their assaults, NETSCOUT Arbor says. 

According to the company’s 13th Annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report (WISR), attackers focused on increasing complexity in 2017, and the exploitation of IoT devices helped them achieve this goal. The frequency of attacks has increased as well, following a trend seen for the past several years. 

The report is based on 390 responses received from a mix of Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 service providers, hosting, mobile, enterprise and other types of network operators globally. More than half of respondents are headquartered and operate in North America. 

Last year, 57% of enterprise, government and education (EGE) respondents and 45% of data center operators had their network resources depleted due to DDoS attacks. Arbor observed 7.5 million DDoS attacks in 2017. 

The largest attack reported by a service provider peaked at 600 Gigabits per second (Gbps), with only one quarter of respondents observing attacks that peaked at over 100Gbps. While the number of very large incidents decreased, however, attackers used more metered attack volumes to achieve their goals, the report reads. 

Attack durations surged last year, with 29% of service providers saying they experienced attacks of over 12 hours. 45% of respondents said they experienced more than 21 attacks per month, while 17% were hit more than 500 times per month. 

Service providers reported more volumetric attacks, while enterprises noticed a 30% increase in stealthy application-layer attacks. Multi-vector attacks hit 59% of service providers and 48% of enterprises, combining high volume floods, application-layer attacks, and TCP-state exhaustion assaults in a single sustained offensive.

The number of enterprises experiencing stealthy application-layer attacks increased 30% last year. 73% of the attacks targeted HTTP, 69% targeted DNS, and 68% targeted HTTPS. The number of assaults targeting encryption servers went up as well, with 53% of detected attacks aimed at the application layer and 42% of them targeting the SSL/TLS protocol.

Organizations appear to better understand the need for defenses and 77% of responding enterprises said DDoS was either a part of their business or their IT risk assessments in 2017. 

DDoS attacks had various but more severe consequences, ranging from reputation/brand damage (57% of respondents) and concerns of customer churn (48% of respondents). The financial impact of DDoS attacks was double compared to 2016, as 56% of respondents admitted to losses of between $10,000 and $100,000.

The increase in threat landscape’s complexity challenged network and security teams. 88% of service providers said they use Intelligent DDoS Mitigation Solutions, while 36% revealed they employ technology that automates DDoS mitigation. 

Demand for managed security services is increasing as well, driven by a surge in attack frequency, and 38% of enterprises revealed they rely on third-party and outsourced services (up from 28% the previous year). However, only 50% of respondents said they carried out defensive drills.

Nearly half of respondents have difficulty hiring and retaining skilled personnel. Thus, organizations have less time to conduct incident response training. Fewer organizations and service providers are carrying out defensive drills or plan on doing so, the report reveals. 

“Attackers focused on complexity this year, leveraging weaponization of IoT devices while shifting away from reliance on massive attack volume to achieve their goals. Attackers have been effective, and the proportion of enterprises experiencing revenue loss due to DDoS nearly doubled this year, emphasizing the significance of the DDoS threat,” said Darren Anstee, NETSCOUT Arbor Chief Technology Officer. 

Ransomware was the most commonly experienced attack last year, with DDoS in second place, but DDoS represented the top threat observed by service providers. Such assaults remain the top concern for 88% of these organizations in 2018 as well, fueled by the weaponized IoT botnets and the attackers’ ability to gain access to sophisticated assault techniques. 

Related: IoT, Android Botnets Emerge as Powerful DDoS Tools: Akamai

Related: DDoS Threat Increases While Mirai Becomes ‘Pay-for-Play’

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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