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DDoS as a Service (DaaS) Attacks Are On the Rise

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Have you heard? DDos as a Service (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks on the rise... and organizations like yours are at risk.

Research has revealed a staggering 109% increase in DDoS attacks over the previous year, and in 2023 continued studies indicated that this trend will only continue to ramp up in 2023 and beyond. In February of this year, a single DDoS attack reached a new all-time high by leveraging 71 million HTTP requests per second.

Market outlook studies further predict that the DDoS protection market will grow in the forthcoming years due to the rise of DDoS as a Service (DaaS) cybercrime groups, the result in an increased demand for cloud-based and hybrid DDoS protection solutions, and a rise in multi-vector DDoS attacks.

So what does this mean for your organization, and how can you protect yourself against similar attacks? Here's what to know:

What is DDoS as a Service (DaaS)?

DaaS allows customers to pay a fee to launch DDoS attacks against specific targets. DaaS generally has two forms: "stresser" DaaS are legitimate stress tests hired by companies to increase the resilience of their IT infrastructure, while "booter" DaaS are malicious DaaS services. 

The emergence of DaaS means that customers (both legitimate and illegitimate) do not need to have the required technical skills or maintain their botnets; they can simply rent the services of a DaaS provider. It also means that technical skills are not required, and anyone with financial means can more easily disrupt their adversaries.

DoS vs DDoS: What’s the Difference?

Denial of service (DoS) is a general term used to describe an IT incident that results in disrupted service (compromised availability). With respect to malicious cyber attacks, a DoS attack originates from a single source or system while DDoS attacks are simultaneously launched from multiple sources - often a collection of compromised devices - that are orchestrated across the internet, known as a botnet. 

This makes DDoS attacks exponentially more powerful due to the sheer volume of traffic that can be generated by hundreds or thousands of devices and more challenging to stop because the diverse origin of the traffic means that attacks cannot be mitigated by blocking a single IP address. DDoS can exhaust the resources of even high-bandwidth public enterprise services by forcing the infrastructure to build complex firewall block rules. This essentially uses the target infrastructure’s defensive tooling against itself.

As just one example of how it can be utilized, DaaS has already been leveraged to impact global military conflicts like the Ukraine war.

Understanding DoS Attack Variants

DoS attacks come in many different forms and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are only a subcategory of the larger classification of exploits. There is also no single mitigation method that can protect all IT systems from all types of DDoS attacks.

Here are the broadest classifications of DDoS techniques:

  • Volumetric Attacks: These attacks simply overwhelm the target's network bandwidth with a massive volume of traffic. The goal is to consume all available network bandwidth or server compute resources, making the network inaccessible to legitimate users. Virtually any protocol can lead to DOS by resource exhaustion. Orchestrated botnets (or zombie-botnets) - compromised of compromised IoT devices, VPS, websites, or even personal desktops, laptops, or mobile devices - are used to launch the most powerful volumetric attacks.

  • Amplification Attacks: Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in internet servers that allow small requests to have a disproportionate impact - "amplifying" the amount of work required by the target compared to the amount of resources required to trigger the vulnerability. Essentially, attackers use a software bug to multiply their attack power. In the past, abused protocols have included TCP, DNS (Domain Name System), NTP (Network Time Protocol), SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), and SSDP (Simple Service Discovery Protocol).

  • Fragmentation Attacks: Fragmentation attacks exploit how protocols handle fragmented packets to overwhelm a target's system, causing it to spend excessive resources reassembling the packets. Fragmentation attacks can be considered a form of amplification attacks.

  • Distributed Reflection Attacks: These attacks reflect requests through a third-party app to amplify attack traffic, making the attack more powerful. For example, the connectionless nature of the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) allows attackers to send packets with a forged source IP address (set to the target's IP instead) to a publicly exposed service. These servers, in turn, reply to the forged address, resulting in a high volume of traffic arriving at the target system.

  • Application Exploits (or Layer 7 DoS): Application exploits target specific vulnerabilities in applications or services to induce crashes. These attacks may require sophisticated skills, but in some cases exploit code may be found online and leveraged by low-skilled attackers. Until the victim can uncover a software bug being leveraged to crash the service, the attacker will be able to continuously exploit it, making the attack very low bandwidth and quick to cause DOS. One classic example of a Layer 7 DOS is the slow loris attack against Apache web server.

How to Defend Against DDoS Attacks

Defending against DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks requires a combination of preparation, response planning, and monitoring and adaptive techniques. A robust defense can ensure that systems remain available to legitimate users while malicious traffic is identified and filtered out. 

To prepare for and defend against DDoS attacks organizations should:

  • Conduct a business risk assessment: Organization’s need to identify critical online services, assess the potential business impact of an outage for each service and determine the types of DDoS attacks those services are vulnerable to.

  • Improve network resilience: Deploy services across multiple data centers for redundancy and use geolocation to distribute traffic. Minimize the attack surface by disabling unnecessary features and services. Keep all applications and software up-to-date. Separate critical infrastructure and place it behind additional layers of security.

  • Implement detection analysis: Identify network traffic baselines and use real-time traffic analysis tools such as intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to identify anomalies quickly and respond with adjustments to resource configuration. Employ CAPTCHAs or other challenge-response tests to differentiate between humans and bots.

  • Utilize web application firewalls (WAFs): Deploy a WAF to pre-emptively filter out malicious web traffic and regularly update rules based on observed attack patterns and global trends. Implement strict rate limits on your infrastructure, particularly for services that are common targets for attacks, such as login pages and APIs.

  • Utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN) when possible: Use a CDN to cache and serve web content closer to users. CDN’s can also effectively transfer the risk to a service provider with access to specialized hardware and engineers dedicated to high availability and DDoS resilience.

  • Utilize cloud-based DDoS protection services: Engage with services that specialize in absorbing and dispersing DDoS attacks, such as Cloudflare, Akamai, or AWS Shield. In some cases an Internet Service Provider (ISP) can also provide services to filter out malicious traffic before it reaches your network.

  • Use specialized DDoS protection appliances: Invest in dedicated hardware solutions, which are specifically designed to detect, mitigate, and shield network resources from DDoS attack traffic, ensuring continued service availability even during active threats. Invest in dedicated hardware solutions, which are specifically designed to detect, mitigate, and shield network resources from DDoS attack traffic, ensuring continued service availability even during active threats.

  • Test infrastructure capacity: Test your infrastructure to determine its resilience against DOS attacks. Over-provision bandwidth to handle traffic spikes and ensure systems can handle more connections than typically expected.

  • Develop an incident response plan: Develop a well-documented DDoS response plan. Conduct regular drills to ensure staff knows how to respond when an attack occurs.

  • Collaborate and share information: Join industry-specific groups or forums that share threat intelligence. Communicate with peers about current threat landscapes and effective defense strategies.

Conclusion

DDoS as a Service is on the rise. This trend allows unsophisticated attackers with financial means to disrupt their adversaries. Organizations need to understand which of their online services present the highest risk and the types of attacks those services are most vulnerable to. 

By integrating a combination of effective mitigation strategies, organizations can better prepare for, respond to, and defend against DDoS attacks and minimize the damage they could incur. Remember, the landscape of threats is constantly evolving, so continuous monitoring and adaptation are crucial to staying ahead of attackers.

Are you ready to strengthen your security posture against DDoS attacks? Reach out to our team of ethical hackers today for your free, zero-obligation quote.

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