DDoS attacks increase by 151 percent in first half of 2020
- Published: Wednesday, 30 September 2020 08:34
Neustar has released its latest cyber threats and trends report which identifies significant shifts in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack patterns in the first half of 2020. Neustar’s Security Operations Centre (SOC) saw a 151 percent increase in the number of DDoS attacks compared to the same period in 2019. These included the largest and longest attacks that Neustar has ever mitigated at 1.17 Terabits-per-second (Tbps) and 5 days and 18 hours respectively. These figures are representative of the growing number, volume and intensity of network-type cyber attacks as organizations shifted to remote operations and workers’ reliance on the Internet increased.
Key findings highlighted in the CyberThreats and Trends Report: Jan-Jun 2020 are:
Largest and smallest DDoS are attacks becoming increasingly intense and sophisticated
Large DDoS attacks are bigger, more intense, and happening in greater numbers than ever before. There has been a noticeable spike in large attacks across the industry, most notably the 2.3 Tbps attack targeting an Amazon Web Services client in February – the largest volumetric DDoS attack on record.
Neustar saw the total number of attacks increase by over two and a half times during January through June of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The increase was felt across all size categories, with the biggest growth happening at opposite ends of the scale – the number of attacks sized 100 Gbps and above grew 275 percent and the number of very small attacks, sized 5 Gbps and below, increased by more than 200 percent. Overall, small attacks sized 5 Gbps and below represented 70 percent of all attacks mitigated by Neustar between January and June of 2020.
The rise in smaller DDoS attacks has been matched by increases in attack sophistication and intensity. 52 percent of threats mitigated by Neustar leveraged three vectors or more, with the number of attacks featuring a single vector essentially non-existent. Neustar also tracked new amplification methods and attacks of higher intensity targeted at critical pieces of web infrastructure. The previous high-water mark of 500 millions-of-packets-per-second (Mpps) was topped this year, with an attack of over 800 Mpps recorded.
Ongoing impact of COVID-19 on cyber threats and industry web traffic
The precipitous rise in DDoS attacks mirrors the growth in Internet traffic seen during the pandemic. Internet use is up between 50 percent and 70 percent and streaming media rose more than 12 percent in the first quarter of 2020. This has meant that attackers of all types, whether serious cybercriminals or bored teenagers stuck at home, have had more screen time to be disruptive.
In a study of one of the largest cybercrime sites by Cambridge University’s Cybercrime Centre, they found that the number of attacks enacted by the website went up sharply at the start of the pandemic and associated lockdown. They also found that instead of existing cybercriminals staging more attacks, it was new attackers driving the increase in DDoS attacks.
The corresponding attacks, like Internet traffic, have not been evenly spread across all websites. It’s well known that ecommerce and gaming websites have received a lot of negative attention from hackers, but there are other industries that have been hit hard by cybercriminals over the last six months. Healthcare organizations contain sensitive patient information and a growing number of IoT devices that are easily exploited. Combined with the additional pressure of the pandemic, hospitals have become some of the most desirable targets for cybercriminals. Industries that have seen a lot of growth during the pandemic, like online gambling, have also been ripe for cyber threats. Most notably, online video has seen an incredible rise in both usage and DDoS attacks. Omdia has reported an additional 200 billion hours of Netflix viewing or Zoom video calls over initial 2020 forecasts. Where traffic rises, so too do attacks; Neustar attack mitigations for this vertical increased by 461 percent over the last six months.
The report highlights several emerging attacker tactics seen across the industry, including an increase in burst and pulse DDoS attacks, broadening abuse of built-in network protocols such as ARMS, WS-DD, CoAP and Jenkins to launch DDoS amplification attacks that can be carried out with limited resources and cause significant disruptions, NXNS attacks targeting DNS servers, RangeAmp attacks targeting content delivery networks (CDNs), and a resurgence of Marai-like malware capable of building large botnets through the exploitation of poorly secured IoT devices.