Amidst Tuesday’s panic over the massive Facebook and Instagram outage and claims that hackers were responsible, a new report finds that cyber attacks have increased immensely in complexity and frequency over the past year. Moreover, at least half of enterprises around the world were hit by hackers in 2014.
A decade ago, the distributed denial-of-service, or simply DDoS, attacks were an occasional nuisance for a limited number of websites, but today they pose a very serious threat to the business. These attacks usually cause websites to go offline and are a part of complex, long-standing and advanced threat campaigns. On Tuesday, social networks Facebook and Instagram were down for about 40 minutes, which sparked fears that a DDoS attack may be involved. Hacker group Lizard Squad took credit via social media, but on Wednesday, Facebook denied the claims. The website insisted that the outage was a result of an internal error. However, the same group hacked into the Malaysia Airlines website on Monday, causing it to go offline. And this is the same group that claimed responsibility for the December attacks on Microsoft and Sony – remember their gaming platforms were blocked on Christmas?
These cyber attacks are no longer independent events, according to the 10th Annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report, released by Arbor Networks on Wednesday. There has been an alarming increase in cyber crime activities across the world, with the size of DDoS attacks surging by 50% over the past year. The report also explains that not only the frequency, but also the complexity of these attacks have increased. The DDoS attack includes a command to million computers to point to a single website (or app), flooding it with bogus requests for service, which makes it go offline.
While ten years ago, DDoS attacks consumed only 8 gigabits per second, today this amount has jumped to 400 Gbps for the largest DDoS attack in 2014. Around 90% of the Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprise respondents in the report admit they experienced application-layer DDoS attacks in 2014, while 42% say they became victims of DDoS attacks, which used a combination of bandwidth-sapping, application-layer, and state exhaustion methods. The most common targets of application-layer attacks are HTTP and DNS, but the loumetric attacks, which cause outages, are more common, representing two-thirds of all DDoS attacks. 38% of ISPs and organizations say they were hit by over 21 DDoS attacks each month in 2014.
So, why are cyber attacks so frequent today? What is the motive? According to the report, the so-called “hacktivism” is still powerful, but not the primary motive – 37% of these attacks were conflicts between crime gangs, 36% were due to the competition between businesses or gamers , and 34% were result from flash crowds or hacktivism. Another 28% were motivated by hiding data exfiltration, 25% – for financial market manipulation, and 24% – for extortion purposes.
Data centers, cloud services, ISPs and enterprises are constantly affected by cyber attacks and along with data theft, they experience huge revenue losses, according to the researchers. This poses a serious risk to the businesses, as well as to government organizations, which often find it hard to identify a DDoS attack.