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Sharp Spike In Global DDoS Attacks: Where Are We Headed?

2017-12-21 by Debbie Fletcher

What's to come for 2018:Is there a more sinister threat underway?

With the spike in global DDoS attacks, what's to come for 2018? Security experts are predicting the worst; but what could that look like?

Gauging by the numbers, 2017 was not a particularly remarkable year. Sure, the WannaCry virus spread across the globe like a plague out of the Middle Ages, and the full impact of the Equifax breach is still unfolding. Yet security experts believe a more sinister threat is growing just beneath the surface of the cyber landscape, waiting to strike at the very heart of the Internet.

That, of course, would be the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, and it’s bad. The simplest DDoS meaning is “the attempt to shut down a website by using multiple devices to overload its web server with requests.” Simply by accessing too many web pages too fast, an attack can make the entire website unresponsive for extensive periods of time.

The DDoS is a more advanced form of the simple Denial of Service (DoS) attack, which is generally launched from a single computer. By infecting a large number of computers, networks, and mobile devices with malicious code, hackers can multiply the number of requests to a server, thereby overloading server resources even faster.

The cost of success

So what’s the harm if hackers successfully shut down a few websites for a while? To understand the danger in this type of attack, we must realize that certain websites being unavailable is more than an inconvenience. In the case if some sites, public safety and welfare is at stake.

While an inaccessible Buzzfeed-type website might be considered by many as a minor inconvenience, many websites provide more than entertainment. Consider a doctor not being able to access patient records because a web server has been taken down. Or news websites that are unavailable in times of national disaster. Even the social impact of airline websites going offline can have major and unforeseen ramifications. 

Further, there is the potential for untold damage to the company’s reputation and customer loyalty when their website is taken offline – not to mention the insane cost-per-minute of downtime.

The perfect storm

The effectiveness of DDoS is primarily determined by two factors: the number of devices involved in attacking the target, and the speed at which the attack makes requests to the targeted server. Increases in the number of devices that can be used to launch a DDoS attack, and increased network speeds, will make DDoS attacks more devastating in the years ahead.

Consider these numbers: in 2015, there were 15.4 billion devices connected to the Internet. This year, the number is 23.3 billion. By 2025, that number is expected to exceed 75 billion. While not all IoT devices are capable of being used in a DDoS attack, by increasing numbers they are. In 2015, only 10% of attacks exceeded 50 gigabits per second. This year, 42% did so, with two attacks throttling up to 1 terabit per second.

Worse still

On an even darker note, hackers have found that by infiltrating blockchains with malicious code, they can form monstrous DDoS botnets. The nascent technology of distributed ledgers has little defense to prevent smart contracts being used as hosts for DDoS code. Just as the increase in IoT devices and increase in network bandwidth provide a ripe environment for launching DDoS attacks, the explosive growth of blockchains provides ready-made platforms for launching massive attacks with total anonymity.

But wait—there’s more!

In keeping with the spirit of entrepreneurship many hackers are known to possess, the Dark Web now has some new products. Don’t have the skills to launch your own DDoS attack? No worries. Both DIY DDoS kits and DDoS-for-hire platforms are now there for the taking - major cryptocurrencies accepted, thank you very much.

Defending against DDoS attacks

All the factors that contribute to a DDoS being successful may seem to be tilting in favor of the hacker. Fortunately, the Internet is far from being held hostage to the next wave of cyber thugs. Along with technological advances that make DDoS attacks more feasible and more effective, technology is also providing the tools cybersecurity firms need to protect against them.

Although protecting against DDoS attacks is beyond the capability of most IT departments, cybersecurity providers have a few things up their sleeves that can mitigate attacks against application layers and network layers - the true target of DDoS software. By detecting and diverting malicious server requests away from the server, and allowing normal traffic to pass through, DDoS mitigation software can offer a layer of protection between this growing threat and the business and government websites that find themselves in the crosshairs.

 

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Author

Debbie Fletcher

Freelance Writer Debbie Fletcher is an enthusiastic, experienced writer who has written for a range of different magazines and news publications over the years. Graduating from City University London specialising in English Literature, Debbie's passion for writing has since grown. She loves anything and everything technology, and exploring different cultures across the world. She's currently looking towards starting her Masters in Comparative Literature in the next few years.View Debbie Fletcher`s profile for more
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