Akamai speeds Australian DDoS blocking as botnets-for-hire make attacks shorter, more frequent

Australian targets of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks will see a “dramatically increased” user experience after DDoS-blocking content distribution network (CDN) operator Akamai marked continuing surges in DDoS volumes and intensity by opening a dedicated 'scrubbing centre' this week in Sydney.

The facility – so named because it commandeers identified DDoS attack traffic and strips it from the incoming traffic streams heading to Akamai's telecommunications, cloud-services and other customers – is the firm's seventh such site around the world and will boost the speed at which Australia-bound DDoS attacks are identified and blocked.

Such attack traffic was previously routed through similar Akamai sites in Hong Kong, Tokyo or Los Angeles – but with the Sydney site now online, “legitimate user traffic doesn't have to leave Australia,” Akamai APJ principal enterprise security architect James Tin told CSO Australia. “We attract all the attack traffic from Australia, scrub it and only allow the good traffic to pass on to our customers.”

Demand for third-party DDoS services has surged in recent years along with continuing growth in DDoS attacks, which are particularly dangerous for Australia because a large enough attack could overwhelm limited undersea capacity.

Akamai's newest State of the Internet (SOTI) – Security Report, for the fourth quarter of 2015, saw the number of Web application attacks jump 28 percent over the previous quarter while the number of DDoS attacks jumped by 40 percent in that time.

Total DDoS attacks were up by 149 percent over the same period a year earlier, although average attack duration was barely half of what it was a year earlier – 14.95 hours versus 29.33 hours at the end of 2014.

On average, customers were targeted with 24 DDoS attacks each during the most recent quarter, with three customers hit more than 100 times and one customer hit 188 times – more than twice per day during the reporting period.

Many of these attacks were part of larger campaigns to compromise targets: “We've seen attackers be quite smart,” Tin said.

“They send attacks that distract security teams, and then while they're distracted they throw in targeted, multi-vector type attacks. You can't mitigate these as normal; you have to mitigate them with customised mitigation techniques to ensure that you don't overblock. And they're getting quite persistent.”

Much of that persistence is the observed effect of the commoditisation of DDoS attacks, which are now available to anyone online through well-established DDoS-on-demand services that tap into armies of malware-compromised botnets to pummel a target domain with traffic for a low cost.

The “vast majority” of the 3600 DDoS attacks observed in Q4 were caused by such networks, according to the SOTI – Security Report's findings, although the fact that the meter is ticking during such attacks – and that many botnet-based services have built-in time limits – saw a shift away from the “mega-attacks” common a year ago. Indeed, average attack duration dropped nearly 21 percent from the previous quarter.

Misuse of commercial stress-test services has also been fingered as a cause for the ongoing growth in DDoS attacks.

DDoS attacks have become an increasing problem in Australia, which over the last year has been named both the world's second-largest victim of DDoS attacks and, briefly, one of the ten worst DDoS instigators.

Read more: DDoS volumes plateau as hackers try new attack vectors: Akamai

Historical surveys have consistently revealed Australian businesses to be generally underprepared to deal with DDoS attacks and their consequences.

Read more: US DoD: we’ll pay* you to ‘hack the Pentagon’ Join us at the CSO Perspectives Roadshow in March.

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Tags tate of the Internet (SOTI) – Security ReportDDoS blockingLos AngelesbotnetsHong KongattackCSO Australiacontent distribution network (CDN)Tokyoakamai

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