In the first half of our look at the rise of distributed denial-of-service attacks, we examined how easy it has become for cybercriminals to go after even the most prominent Internet properties. National governments, Web-scale consumer companies and grassroots political movements have all been targeted by enormous DDoS campaigns within the last year or so.
Why has there been such an uptick in high-profile DDoS? Resources are increasingly affordable and available on-demand, plus Web servers are being used in place of PCs for their greater capacity, which enables more successful attacks. Cybersecurity at many organizations have not kept pace.
“Literally, if you have a credit card and if you’re bored, it could be anyone,” DDoS expert and author Molly Sauter told Network World. “It’s so easy to rent a botnet – most of them are out of Russia – and you can rent one for stupid cheap, and then deploy it for a couple of hours, and that’s really all you need to target a major site like Feedly or Evernote.”
The role of Russia’s botnets in DDoS proliferation
A 2012 Trend Micro research paper, Russian Underground 101, delved into how for-rent botnets had put Russia on the cutting-edge of professionalized cybercrime. For example, for $10 at the time, a buyer could get one hour of DDoS disruption. A month’s worth of service ran only slightly more than $1,000.
This business model mirrors the convenience that individuals have come to expect from legitimate on-demand cloud offerings. In this case, however, the setup saves DDoS perpetrators the hassle of having to infect and enlist a sufficient number of machines before orchestrating the attack.
DDoS typically requires a botnet of “zombie” computers that act in concert to overwhelm a target IP address with meaningless traffic.The Russian underground economy and the proliferation of DIY DDoS toolkits and services have made creation of such a botnet feasible even for a beginner.
Writing for Dark Reading last year, Kelly Jackson Higgins profiled one such utility, called DirtJumper Drive. It signaled a huge leap forward for DDoS malware, which traditionally has been low-quality and relatively easy to screen for. DirtJumper Drive would actually look for DDoS mitigation mechanisms to increase its chances of success.
Russia’s underground offers similarly sophisticated DDoS infrastructure. Tools may feature 64-bit compatibility as well as the ability to attack multiple URLs at once. Anyone interested in carrying out a DDoS attack this way would also have options for carrying out many different types of DDoS that go after various Internet protocols.
Network Time Protocol, multi-vector DDoS and mitigation
Between Russia’s botnets and a wide selection of freely available DDoS platforms, cybercriminals have many options for compromising network security and embarrassing their victims through prolonged downtime. It’s up to enterprises to adjust their strategies for this new threat environment, and many are already moving in the right direction.
One of the recent innovations in DDoS was the exploitation of the legacy Network Time Protocol. Early 2014 attacks on NTP were record-breaking, with one on a CloudFlare customer peaking at 400 Gb/s. Fortunately, since that time many of the vulnerable NTP servers have been patched as administrators have become aware of the exploit.
Such preventative measures will be important as multi-vector DDoS (i.e., DDoS that targets multiple attack surfaces) becomes more common. A BT survey found that such attacks had risen 41 percent year-over-year from 2013. It will be critical for organizations to establish baselines for network activity and also use appliances that analyze traffic for anomalies.