Public Sector Increasingly Targeted by Powerful DDoS Attacks

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anthony M. Freed

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The Q4 2014 DDoS Trends Report (gated) reveals that the public sector is increasingly being targeted by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, most likely due to politically motivated attacks by hacktivists targeting government networks in reaction to highly publicized events like the protests in Hong Kong and Ferguson, Missouri.

“2014 saw an increase in the convergence of the physical protests with digital ones. DDoS attacks were and still are the main method for attack among those in the hacktivist community, with the most common tool being the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), or personally altered versions of the tool for each operation,” the researchers said.

“Hacktivist groups are taking up cyber arms against those who they perceive to be responsible, complicit, or the most visible billboards for their cause. We expect 2015 to yield even more instances as these types of events gain significant public attention and DDoS-as-a service grows in availability and popularity.”

The study also found that attackers continued to shift the platforms targeted, with an increase in targeted attacks focused on retail giants and small businesses with point-of-sale (PoS) malware and new malware targeting the iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices.

“Existing bring your own device (BYOD) measures will have to be further enhanced to ensure that any malicious content is kept out of the corporate network,” the researchers aid.

“In the near future, given the nature of targeted attacks as well as the lack of security awareness of end users, this will continue to remain a challenge. Fortunately, keeping devices in their non-rooted or non-jail broken state, and using mobile apps from only official app stores can avoid many mobile compromises.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Average DDoS attack size saw a 14% increase over Q3 2014 and a 245 percent increase year over year
  • Sustained volumetric DDoS activity was observed in Q4 2014, with DDoS attacks reaching 60 gigabits per second (Gbps)/16 Millions of packets per second (Mpps) for UDP floods and 55 Gbps/60 Mpps for Transfer Control Protocol (TCP)-based attacks
  • IT/Services/Cloud/SaaS was the most frequently targeted industry in Q4, and experienced the largest volume of attacks
  • Attacks against the Financial Services Industry doubled
  • 42% of attacks peaked at more than 1 Gbps, with 17% leveraging more than 10 Gbps of DDoS traffic
  • Traditional security controls alone are becoming much less effective today as zero-day threats, APTs, web-, mobile-, and application-layer attacks often bypass standard defenses and leave an organization vulnerable to attack.

“The mission of defending an enterprise or organization today is a complex and challenging task. Our personal and professional attack surfaces have never been greater and they are only expected to grow as organizations and individuals continue to increase their reliance on the connected digital world for a variety of tasks,” said Verisign’s Josh Ray.

“Security practitioners must protect not only their enterprise assets but also guard against threats to their supply chain and business ecosystem. This, coupled with the fact that the cyber-threat landscape continues to evolve in terms of actors, tactics and motivations, has created a perfect storm for organizations that must now move toward an intelligence-driven, holistic security approach in order to keep pace.”

Instead of being limited to the mostly static capabilities of traditional security solutions, security based on threat intelligence provides a more accurate assessment of risk as potential threats emerge, in addition to faster detection and mitigation of an attack.

Using threat intelligence to identify and block potentially malicious activity and the automatic implementation of mitigating controls in real time – before the perimeter is ever compromised – can greatly reduce the overall attack surface of an organization.

This was cross-posted from the Dark Matters blog. 

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