Guy Fawkes: famous for a plot to assassinate England’s King James in 1604 and for guarding copious amounts of gunpowder, is remembered every Nov. 5 in Britain with fireworks and bonfires. Researchers say that businesses should brace themselves for a different kind of plot: an influx of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from hacktivist group Anonymous on Wednesday.
“The forecast for the future looks dark, as we expect to see many DDoS attacks during Guy Fawkes Day on November 5, as the Anonymous collective has already announced various activities under the Operation Remember campaign,” said Candid Wueest, threat researcher at Symantec, in a blog. “However, hacktivists protesting for their ideological beliefs are not the only ones using DDoS attacks. We have also seen cases of extortion where targets have been financially blackmailed, as well as some targeted attacks using DDoS as a diversion to distract the local CERT team while the real attack was being carried out.”
DDoS attacks have grown in intensity as well as in number in the last two years, although the duration of an attack is often down to just a few hours. Amplification attacks especially are very popular at the moment as they allow relatively small botnets to take out large targets with amplification factors of up to 500. For such an attack, spoofed traffic is sent to a third-party service, which will reflect the answer to the spoofed target.
“Such attacks are simple to conduct for the attackers, but they can be devastating for the targeted companies,” said Wueest.
From January to August 2014, Symantec has seen a 183% increase in DNS amplification attacks, making it the most popular method seen by Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network. Multiple methods are often used by attackers in order to make mitigation difficult and, to make matters worse, DDoS attack services can be hired for less than $10 on underground forums.
“It is the distribution of hosts that attracts attackers — such as the group Anonymous — as it provides multiple advantages; undetectable location, multiple machines and identity anonymity,” said Alex Raistrick, director cybersecurity solutions at Palo Alto Networks. And all of that “which makes DDoS attacks an appealing instrument for destruction on Guy Fawkes Day,” he added.
As far as mitigation, Raistrick noted that some attacks simply exploit vulnerabilities that subsequently crash or severely destabilize the system so that it can’t be accessed or used.
“Segmentation helps to block attacks trying to spread from one area of the network to another,” he said. “Next-generation firewall will also directly contribute to a stronger overall security platform, starting with the endpoint and detecting attacks there as well as detecting when threats are attempting lateral moves within networks.”
He added, “Essentially, make your estate difficult and expensive to breach — and the bad actors will go elsewhere.”