Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
3/13/2020
05:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

DDoS Attack Trends Reveal Stronger Shift to IoT, Mobile

Attackers are capitalizing on the rise of misconfigured Internet-connected devices running the WS-Discovery protocol, and mobile carriers are hosting distributed denial-of-service weapons.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks remain a popular attack vector but have undergone changes as cybercriminals shift their strategies. Today's attackers are turning to mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to diversify and strengthen their DDoS campaigns, research shows.

Researchers with A10 Networks, which tracked nearly 6 million DDoS weapons in the fourth quarter of 2019, today published "DDoS Weapons and Attack Vectors" to share the trends in today's DDoS landscape. These include the weapons being used, locations where attacks are launched, services exploited, and techniques attackers are using to maximize damage caused.

DDoS weapons are distributed around the world; however, the bulk of attacks start in countries with the most Internet connectivity. China is the origin of the highest number of DDoS attacks, with 739,223 starting in the country. The United States is second, with 448,169, followed by the Republic of Korea (440,185), India (268,864), Russia (253,609), and Taiwan (199,656).

The SNMP and SSDP protocols, long the top sources for DDoS attacks, continued to take the top spots in the fourth quarter with nearly 1.4 million SNMP weapons and nearly 1.2 million SSDP weapons tracked. The next one was a surprise: Researchers saw a sharp spike in attacks using WD-Discovery; these rose to nearly 800,000 to become the third most common source of DDoS.

A10 Networks attributes this change to the growing popularity of attackers leveraging misconfigured IoT devices to amplify their campaigns. As part of this trend, called "reflected amplification," attackers are focusing on the rising number of Internet-exposed IoT devices running the WS-Discovery protocol. WD-Discovery, a multicast UDP-based communications protocol, is used to automatically detect Internet-connected services. It's used in many devices, going back to Windows Vista; video encoders, printers, cameras, DVRs, and some on-prem security systems reply back to researchers' WS-Discovery Internet scans. 

WD-Discovery does not perform IP source validation, researchers note, so it's easy for attackers to spoof a victim's IP address. Doing this resulted in the victim being flooded with data from nearby IoT devices, they say.

"The reason WS-Discovery has been of a particular interest is not just its ability to generate a large attack but depending on the contents of the query sent by the attacker to the amplification system, the customer could be hit with an attack that conventional methods, such as those at layer 3 and layer 4, they cannot fully protect themselves from," explains Rich Groves, director of R&D at A10 Networks. This is why he considers both SSDP and WS Discovery as more dangerous than other DDoS attack sources. 

Reflected amplification has been "highly effective," they note, with more than 800,000 WS-Directory hosts available to exploit and observed amplification reaching 95x. These attacks have reached a massive scale and account for the majority of DDoS attacks, researchers say. Most inventory has been found in Vietnam, Brazil, the US, the Republic of Korea, and China.

As more IoT devices connect to the Internet, and the growth of 5G drives network speed and coverage, researchers anticipate attackers will continue to find ways to leverage the IoT. DDoS-for-hire services will make it even simpler for any attacker to launch a destructive attack.

"Attackers are good at figuring out which countermeasures are in place and which are not, especially Booter systems, as they are compelled to be better than their competitors," says Groves. "Filters for some attacks are deployed throughout the Internet all of the time and some are much harder to accomplish." WS-Discovery is especially challenging, he continues, as a portion of the traffic is sourced from a common but high source port (UDP 3702) and sometimes the rest of the layer 4 signature is random (random high UDP ports). Service proviers usually don't want to block traffic sourced from high UDP ports because of the potential for collateral damage, he adds. This gives attackers a gap in the perimeter to strike. 

DDoS is also going mobile, researchers found. As an example, Groves points to the large number of Android systems with an unprotected diagnostics backdoor. "This is actively being used to place Mirai-like malware on the phone to make it a weapon," he explains. Further, attackers are widely deploying protocols such as COAP, which unlike the backdoor for Android, is an amplification vector that works similarly to WS-Discovery. 

The popularity of DDoS weapons hosted by mobile carriers "skyrocketed" toward the end of 2019, researchers found. The top-reflected amplified source for DDoS attacks, they noticed, was Guangdong Mobile Communication Co. Brazilian mobile company Claro was a top source of malware-infected drones.

They also looked at trends around autonomous number systems (ASNs), or collections of IP address ranges under a single entity or government, hosting DDoS weapons. The top ASNs hosting DDoS weapons also included Guangdong Mobile Communication Co. and Chinanet, as well as Korea Telecom, aligning with countries that also host a high number of DDoS attacks.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's featured story: "Beyond Burnout: What Is Cybersecurity Doing to Us?."

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Healthcare Industry Sees Respite From Attacks in First Half of 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  8/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: It's a technique known as breaking out of the sandbox kids.
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20383
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
ABBYY network license server in ABBYY FineReader 15 before Release 4 (aka 15.0.112.2130) allows escalation of privileges by local users via manipulations involving files and using symbolic links.
CVE-2020-24348
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, has an out-of-bounds read in njs_json_stringify_iterator in njs_json.c.
CVE-2020-24349
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, allows control-flow hijack in njs_value_property in njs_value.c. NOTE: the vendor considers the issue to be "fluff" in the NGINX use case because there is no remote attack surface.
CVE-2020-7360
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An Uncontrolled Search Path Element (CWE-427) vulnerability in SmartControl version 4.3.15 and versions released before April 15, 2020 may allow an authenticated user to escalate privileges by placing a specially crafted DLL file in the search path. This issue was fixed in version 1.0.7, which was r...
CVE-2020-24342
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Lua through 5.4.0 allows a stack redzone cross in luaO_pushvfstring because a protection mechanism wrongly calls luaD_callnoyield twice in a row.