DDoS attacks go through the roof

Don’t gamble with protection – Top Layer

The growing prevalence of criminally motivated DDoS attacks calls for a fundamental rethink in how enterprises approach security.

Companies typically bolster the security infrastructure only after they are attacked. But this approach is misguided and costly, according to Paul Lawrence, EMEA general manager at security outfit Top Layer. Lawrence is fed up with ambulance chasing ("it’s a strain on our resources") and is urging companies to become more pro-active in shoring up their defences.

"The prevention message isn't getting over and companies aren't developing a genuine strategy to manage security risks," Lawrence told El Reg.

Top Layer is a leading player in the emerging intrusion prevention market so the issue Lawrence raises is more than a little self-serving. That doesn't mean to say his analysis is necessarily wrong, though.

Gambling sites targeted by extortionists

In recent months gambling sites have become the subject of extortion rackets with criminals threatening to bring down sites unless companies hand over protection money. This month Irish on-line betting site Paddypower.com became the latest high-profile gambling site to suffer a denial of service attack from extortionists.

The attack followed reports last November of Eastern European crime syndicates using threats of computer hacking to extort pay-offs from online businesses in the UK.

Top Layer was called in to deploy its Attack Mitigator intrusion prevention products at a number of online gaming sites during the Super Bowl following attacks on a Latin American gambling site in the run-up to American Football's showpiece event earlier this month.

Attacks typically start with crude SYN Flood attacks, according to Lawrence. If that doesn't scare targets into paying then attackers resort to more sophisticated attacks (SYN Floods, UDP Floods, NB-Gets, ICMP Ping Floods and UDP Fragment Attacks). The effect on unprotected sites can be devastating.

"Companies wake up to find out that they're under a brute force attack that has taken them offline," said Lawrence.

"When you're under attack it’s the wrong time to solve the problem. If you act up front you reduce the damages you will experience and your costs will be lower," he added.

Third party, fire fighting and bandwidth theft

Most enterprises already have firewalls and AV protection in place, a defence which Lawrence compares to driving with "third party insurance". Companies should think about a more comprehensive policy including intrusion prevention technology, he advises.

Online gambling (with low value, high volume transactions) is still the prime target for criminal DDoS attacks. A online gambling web site which is floored will automatically lose out impulse-led customer business. Therefore it is more likely to readily concede to crook's demands than regular e-tailers.

But firms in the insurance sector, payment companies and even ISPs are also at risk. Lawrence says. Small businesses are also at risk because of the excess bandwidth charges arising as a result of DDoS attacks, he notes.

"The number, frequency and intensity of DDoS attacks is going through the roof," Lawrence said. "Whether the motive is extortion, personal vengeance or mischief anyone can be a target." ®

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