DDoS Attack Articles from eWeek, FierceCIO

Brian Wood Blog

Security, security, security. Compliance, compliance, compliance.

These are recurring themes that you will continue to hear from AIS as we remind current and prospective customers that regardless of how sharp the guard dogs’ teeth or how redundant the underlying infrastructure, being prepared for inevitable “stuff happens” occurrences is a constant-vigilance requirement for AIS and clients alike.

Equipment will fail and attacks will occur; this is life in the networked economy. It’s how we respond to such events that matters.

Emphasis in red added by me.

Brian Wood, VP Marketing


High-Bandwidth DDoS Attacks Now Normal

In the past three months, seven companies have suffered distributed denial-of-service attacks with bit rates in excess of 20G bps, says network protection firm Prolexic.

In the past year, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have nearly doubled in frequency and more than tripled in size, according to the latest quarterly report released by network-attack mitigation firm Prolexic.

In September and October, massive floods of data exceeding 70G bps and coming from servers compromised with the “itsoknoproblembro” denial-of-service toolkit targeted financial institutions, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Yet financial institutions are not alone: Media and energy companies were also attacked using servers compromised with the toolkit and known as brobots, Prolexic stated in its Quarterly Global DDoS Attack Report released Oct. 17.

The move from attacks using botnets comprised of relatively low-bandwidth home machines to high-bandwidth corporate or hosted servers contributed to an increase in average attack bandwidth to 5 Gbps, with seven attacks exceeding 20 Gbps, the firm said.

“If you get an equivalent capacity in a fewer number of unpatched servers around the globe, that seems to be a very effective platform, and it’s the latest preferred tactic,” said Stuart Scholly, president of the security provider.

The variety of tools and techniques used to compromise servers with the “itsoknoproblembro” bot software suggest that there is no single actor. Instead, multiple individuals and groups with different agendas are using the denial-of-service toolkit.

“The blend of attack scripts and different techniques used in each campaign is also another pointer to the possibility of multiple, well-organized groups,” the report stated.

While the attacks were more numerous and consumed more bandwidth, the average flood lasted much less time, about 19 hours, down from 33 hours a year ago. While attackers do not seem to fear prosecution, the shorter duration appears to recognize that longer attacks result in authorities shutting down their botnets, said Scholly.

“In a classic botnet usage situation, you don’t want to expose your botnet any longer than you really have to achieve your goal, and attacks in the last year have been a little bit more brazen than they have before,” said Scholly.

Attackers also focused more on attacking applications, a tactic that relies on consuming server resources by overwhelming applications with valid, but illegitimate, requests for data. In the third quarter, 19 percent of attacks used application—also known as Layer 7—attacks. Many times such attacks were combined with the more common packet floods to create a multi-vector campaign.

“The way to think of it is that if I am going to launch an attack, I will launch a campaign,” said Scholly. “I will start with a large UDP flood, and then layer in a SYN flood underneath. When you strip that away, you may find an application attack layered in there as well.”

The most common types of attacks consisted of SYN and UDP floods—both types of infrastructure attacks—and GET floods, an application attack.

The top sources of the attacks were China, followed by the United States, India and Brazil. Attacks originating in China and the United States accounted for almost two-thirds of all attacks.



Tips for Keeping DDoS Attacks at Bay

DDoS attacks are proliferating, growing in power and becoming more complicated to defend against. What’s more, there seems to be a widespread tolerance for the perpetrators, who appear to be more brazen than ever, writes Roger A. Grimes at InfoWorld.

From a technology standpoint, DDoS attacks are getting bigger. At one time, a 1 Gbps attack was seen as daunting, but now attacks of 20 Gbps are routine, according to Neal Quinn, vice president of operations at security firm Prolexic. Worse yet, they are now targeting the application layer rather than the routing and transport layers.

“Attackers are now spending a much longer period of time researching their targets and the applications they are running, trying to figure out where they can cause the most pain with a particular application,” Quinn said. “For example, they may do reconnaissance to figure out what URL post will cause the most resource-consuming Web page refresh.”

DDoS attackers are also becoming adept at assaulting from numerous fronts, making it harder for companies to defend themselves. Sometimes these multi-pronged attacks are red herrings to deflect attention from more serious attacks going on. “When the victim company is hit with a DDoS, it usually causes a little panic and the customer brings their best and brightest resources to bear on the problem. This takes those same individuals away from their other monitoring duties,” Quinn said.

One of the reasons DDoS attacks don’t generate more outrage and punishment is that they have become a tool for social and political statements, and the perpetrators are often very open about their intent. They publicly discuss their targets in advance and then go to the press with the news prior to an attack.

To keep DDoS assaults at bay, start by focusing on performance optimization, using anti-DDoS settings on the most likely targets, Quinn recommends. Be sure to have a handle on any weak links on web servers or other security risks. Have enough bandwidth and computing power at your disposal to stand up to the attacks, and figure out how to deal with huge traffic spikes by using peering agreements or DDoS mitigation service agreements. Finally, set your DNS records’ time-to-live configuration low so that you can detect changes rapidly, and make sure the early alerting setting is configured.