The World Cup of DDoS Attacks

Hacktivist for Operation Hacking Cup #OpHackingCup took down the Brazil World Cup site and have targeted hundreds of other sites.  This was not the first time a major event has been targeted nor will it be the last.

Hacktivist have been actively leveraging Distribute Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks as a way to successfully highlight and protest against political, economic or ideological conflicts for quite some time. It has become so mainstream there was even a petition to the Obama administration to make DDoS legal. The FFIEC recently issued guidance to financial institutions with a quick guide on mitigation techniques.



Techniques used by cybercriminals to conduct attacks have become increasingly sophisticated – from single point denial of service attacks on networks to distributed denial of service beyond focusing just on Layer 7. In fact, DDoS has become so commercial that we’ve seen DDoS for hire  underground offerings for as low as $7 per hour with free one hour try before you buy option.  Couple this with a recent Ponemon report which highlighted that one hour of downtime for a merchant would equate to an average loss of $500,000 – what an amazing ROI for cybercriminals considering for the same amount of money I spend on coffee a day they can impact an organization’s bottom line by over $500,000!

Traditional DDoS attacks focused on things like UDP Flood, Syn Flood and ICMP Flood targeting network resource exhaustion.    Modern day DDoS attacks such as Op Ababil, target the HTTP layer and above.  In recent DDoS attacks, reflection and amplification have been the weakness of choice such as the Network Time Protocol (NTP) attacks this past February or the DNS lookup attacks late last year. Cybercriminals continue to develop even more sophisticated botnets which can remain active longer before being discovered and they are hosting a botnet’s command-and-control center in a Tor-based network (where each node adds a layer of encryption as traffic passes) obfuscates the server’s location and makes it much harder to take it down.  Additionally, cybercriminals are building more resilient peer-to-peer botnets, populated by bots that talk to each other, with no central control point. If one bot (or peer) in a peer-to-peer botnet goes down, another will take over, extending the life of the botnet using business continuity techniques. This is exactly what we saw with the recent GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker botnet disruption.

These types of attacks make requests that are perceived to be legitimate; like attempting logins, performing search or downloading large files repeatedly which can easily bypass standard DDoS defenses such as firewalls, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) and Web Application Firewalls (WAF). Additionally, modern day DDoS attacks are starting to abuse a business logic flaws rather than network resources on a more frequent basis as few organizations are focused on that aspect of their site for security detection. This is why it is becoming more critical to determine whether a request is legitimate or not and without understanding business logic used for processing the request this is incredibly challenging.

In addition to what you are already doing today, you should consider focusing on the detection of business logic abuse by analyzing the behavior of users. You can achieve this by tracking every user/IP including pages accessed, the order of accesses, how quickly they moved between pages and other web paths taken by the same IP address. Further, if you analyze all web traffic it makes it possible to identify users or IP addresses displaying similar behavior. Users can then be clustered based on behavior enabling your administrators to find all endpoints involved in the attack. If this analysis happens in real-time you can identify more attackers as attacks happen. Take a look at what we saw with one of our Web Threat Detection customers.

In a world where we will always have political, economic or ideological conflicts – and major sporting event, we should assume there will always be some type of cyber attack in parallel.  What is your game plan to defeat your competition?

Determine your organizational security readiness by taking the Security Self-Evaluation tools  and for all the latest cybercrime developments, join the RSA Fraud and Risk Intelligence Online Community.

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