Australian companies face an increasing threat from domestic DDoS instigators

Mobile botnets, targeted DDoS attacks pose growing threat to Australian targets

Australian organisations are being hit by over 450 distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks every day and fully a quarter of them are coming from domestic sources, analysts have warned as figures show DDoS attacks making a resurgence after nearly a year of decline.

New figures from the Arbor Networks ATLAS service – which collects data on DDoS attacks and malware from 400 service providers – suggested that Australian targets suffered 14,000 attacks of various intensity in August alone.

The largest of the attacks, in early August, measured 51.9 Gbps in intensity while the heaviest volume of packets – 15.8 million packets per second – came in an attack later in the month.

While the United States was the largest source of the attacks – comprising 30 percent of the overall total – the lion’s share of the remainder came from Chinese (24 percent), Australian (24 percent), and UK (23 percent) sources.

The August figures reinforce the resurgent threat from DDoS attacks, which flood targets with data in an effort to interrupt their operation for even a short period. They also reflect the continuing flexibility of attackers that were able to build a botnet out of mobile devices to instigate a high-impact DDoS extortion campaign against numerous travel and hospitality organisations.

That botnet, called WireX, was embedded in around 300 Google Play Store applications and had spread to estimated 130,000 to 160,000 bots that produced over 20,000 HTTP/HTTPS requests per second. On August 17 WireX was taken down through a concerted effort involving Google, Akamai, Cloudflare, Flashpoint, Oracle Dyn, RiskIQ, Team Cymru, and other organisations.

Instigated by devices from over 100 countries, WireX changed quickly as the attacker “learned rapidly to try different techniques to try to thwart the defenders,” Arbor Security Engineering & Response Team (ASERT) principal engineer Roland Dobbins wrote in his analysis of the attack.

WireX reflects the ingenuity being applied to the creation of DDoS attacks as identified in Akamai’s recent Q2 2017 State of the Internet Security Report.

Analysing attacks remediated over Akamai’s core content distribution network, that report noted a 28 percent quarter-on-quarter increase in the total number of DDoS attacks as well as increases in infrastructure layer (by 27 percent), reflection-based (21 percent), and average number of attacks (28 percent) per target.

Changing geographic distribution showed that “geographic profiling is a real and potentially imminent threat to Australia,” Akamai Asia-Pacific senior security specialist Nick Rieniets said in a statement. “When there are changes like this in the threat landscape and when new threats are released, companies need to recognise, acknowledge and assess that volatility, and change their security controls accordingly, and in a timely manner.”

Akamai’s DDoS analysis suggested that the PBot botnet had been tapped once again to generate the biggest DDoS attacks observed in the second quarter. PBot – which Rieniets called “proof that the minute threat actors get access to a new vulnerability they can work out how to weaponise it” – appeared to have primarily infected around 400 Web servers, boosting the volume of data produced per device compared with previous infections such as last year’s Internet of Things-focused Mirai botnet.

The range and efficacy of DDoS attack tactics have highlighted the need for businesses to remain disciplined about their protections, security experts have warned.

“It’s important that organizations implement best current practices (BCPs) for their network infrastructure, application/service delivery stacks, and ancillary supporting services,” Arbor’s Dobbins writes. “This will allow the organization to maintain availability and ensure continuous service delivery even in the face of attack.”

With many organisations found to not have a formal DDoS defense plan in place – and many that do, never rehearsing it – Dobbins said testing needed to become a habit: “It is critical that organizations devise and rehearse their DDoS defense plans in order to ensure that they have the requisite personnel, skills, operational processes, communications plans, and support services in place to defend their Internet properties in a timely and effective manner.”

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Tags botnetscyber attackscyber securityDDoS attacksGoogle Play StoreWireX

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