FBI credited with global 85% reduction in DDoS attack size

After its seizure of illicit sites in December, attack rates have also taken a sharp downturn

FBI logo on building

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) clampdown on DDoS-for-hire websites back in December 2018 has been credited for the massive 85% reduction in DDoS attack size and 11% attack rate globally.

According to a report from cyber security firm Nexusguard, The FBI eradicated 15 high-profile sites known as 'booster' sites which hide behind the guise of 'stress-testing' services, which could be used by anyone to direct massive amounts of traffic to any network or any business for a fee.

Before seizing the sites, the FBI tested each one to ensure it was a legitimate DDoS hire website which involved paying the 'relatively low fee' in Bitcoin, according to the affidavit which supported the FBI's warrant. As well as being affordable, the software to defend against it only goes so far.

"DDoS is among the more intractable methods, because even the most sophisticated DDoS mitigation technologies, which large organizations likely have at their disposal, have their limitations," said Tim Helming, director of product management at DomainTools.

"Because DDoS relies on huge numbers of conscripted zombie machines, often IoT devices, it's incumbent upon all of us to practice good cyber hygiene to limit the number of resources a DoS attacker can marshal," he added.

Nexusguard said that the worrying availability and affordability of the sites was an issue and it also "raises concerns over the security vulnerabilities of a sheer number of unsecured and unpatched IoT devices as well as misconfigured computers and network devices". 

According to a Kaspersky report last year, DDoS attacks can hurt SMEs quite substantially, placing the average cost of an attack at $123,000 for small companies - a steep rise from the $106,000 cost in 2016.

The attack method involves overwhelming a website or server with more access requests than it can handle causing it to malfunction and drop offline, or in the case of a targeted server, knock the services it supports offline.

Even if a DDoS attack fails to take a website or server down, it can lead to the supported services to run a lot slower and see web pages get stuck in loading loops when accessed by legitimate users.

While the traditional 'here's a load of data, Mr Network, try and handle this - haha' type of DDoS attack is decreasing in popularity, a sophisticated and newer form of network overload is coming to the fore.

Coined 'bit and piece', these attacks involve sending a small amount of unwanted traffic to lots of IP addresses in an attempt to slip by threat detectors and eventually saturate a network's resources which leads to a service being brought down.

Bit and piece attacks saw a big surge in Q4, according to the Nexusguard report, with a 36% increase in the number of attacks and rise in average attack size by nearly 4%.

It's important that businesses maintain good cyber hygiene in the current security climate, and that goes for detecting other threats too.

Building on the DDoS theme, yesterday we reported on the discovery of a new Mirai botnet variant, known for bringing catastrophic damage via DoS attacks to businesses. The new variant specifically attacks business IoT devices to compromise networks and then launch malicious payloads.

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