Light Reading

When Size Matters

Carol Wilson

It is easy to get lost in the numbers when discussing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other network breaches but the figures Arbor Networks released this week regarding DDoS attacks are worthy of special note. They are a strong indication of new threats for which network operators need to be prepared. (See Arbor Sees Alarming Rise in Size of DDoS Attacks.)

Those numbers come from the 275 network operators that are customers of Arbor Networks Inc. 's Atlas network security system and regularly report troublesome activity. They show that larger bit-per-second attacks are back in vogue, and have grown so rapidly they threaten to not only cause massive problems for their targeted companies but also for networks in general.

For the past couple of years, larger packet-per-second attacks were more the norm, says Darren Anstee, solutions architect team manager for Arbor. Those tend to exhaust forwarding performance.

Last March, however, the largest single cyber-attack to date was launched against the servers of Spamhaus, a non-profit agency that battles spam. Since that attack, the trend has been to ever larger bit-per-second attacks. The Spamhaus attack, which hit 300 Gbit/s, affected Internet traffic globally and hurt many businesses in the process.

And here are the staggering numbers: There has been more than 350 percent growth in the number of attacks monitored at greater than 20 Gbit/s so far this year, as compared to 2012. The average DDoS attack in 2013 is currently measured at 2.64 Gbit/s, up 78 percent from last year.

That's of particular concern to service providers because attacks of that size will not only swamp the resources of the target company but can also swamp aggregation routers serving that company and others, and create major congestion issues for the network in general.

"There is a much broader range of organizations that are going to get their Internet connectivity completely saturated by an average attack," says Anstee. "They will be dependent on their service providers or on cloud-based protection to deal with that."

These attacks are being launched either by cyber-criminals, who use them as distractions for other activity or as "take-outs" for extortion or other purposes, or by so-called "hacktivists," who for a variety of ideological reasons, target various companies or web operations for attack to make a political point.

Two suspects have been arrested in the Spamhaus attack, for example, one a Dutch participant in countercultural ISP and one a UK schoolboy who was apparently making considerable money from Internet activity. They targeted Spamhaus because of its efforts to identify and stop spam email that poses security threats.

Because it's harder to predict where attacks will come from next, it's become much more important to prepare for them, Anstee says. And that means making sure there are solutions in place to help customers who are attacked, as well as protection for the service providers' infrastructure to prevent or respond to collateral damage from these massive attacks.

"Since we are seeing more very large attacks -- we saw a 191Gbits/sec attack in August -- service providers also need to be looking at capacity planning models for their mitigation infrastructure," he warns. As the size of average and peak attacks grows, network operators must make sure they can deal with these larger threats.

As I said at the outset, it's easy to get lost in such staggering figures, but the latest warnings are not something to glaze over. There have been many other warnings as well, and expressions of concern that service providers aren't taking the rapidly growing threats seriously. Given that Arbor's numbers come straight from the networks themselves, this is proof of what lies ahead, ready or not. (See Security Threat Intensifies for Service Providers.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/21/2013 | 4:37:48 AM
Re: Are we shock-proof?
I started researching the service provider security space three or four years ago and was immediately struck by the confluence of proven incidents of attacks that have had truly devastating effects alongside some positively steaming shovels full of fear-mongering bullshit on the part of some security vendors. The two really do co-exist.

As my research has gone on, I've found that the pitching of security solutions into the service provider space is typically quite a lot more sober than it is into the enterprise.

Very few service providers fall for the histrionics-based sell, in my experience This is either because they're highly security-savvy and know how to categorize risks according to the threat level they represent.

Or (as is still too often the case) it's because they can't differentiate different threat levels, can't be bothered to, and don't much care about anything beyond the next quarter's revenue target. In the case of these guys, if they invested in the right security solutions they might find that a couple of unexplained outages which suspended their ability to bill during the quarter were actually caused by malicious attacks but hey, why let that interfere with sound accountant-led thinking, right?

I'm actually struck by how sober and business-case oriented most pitching of security solutions to service providers is these days. I'm also struck, not coincidentally, by the relatively high rate of failure among the minority of security solution vendors who shriek with scant evidence that the sky is falling in. They often find that it's actually them that the sky subsequently falls in on where service provider business is concerned.

Where Arbor Networks is concerned I've an interest to declare in that I've done quite a bit of work with them. They have laced my palm with silver. They're one of the sponsors of Light Reading's second Mobile Network Security conference that I'm chairing in New York on December 5th, for example (see our LIve Events listing).

So take this with a pinch of salt if you will, but when I talk to service providers, the feedback I get about Arbor is that they are one of a select few companies whose opinions and solutions for service provider security are nearly always taken very seriously pretty much anywhere in the world.

Better still, ask around yourself, and see if you encounter a different pattern. I'd be very surprised.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
10/18/2013 | 7:35:35 PM
Re: Are we shock-proof?
Hacktivists are organizations with a political ax to grind - think Anonymous or Wikileaks -- and their wanna-bes - who launch attacks to make a point, and not necessarily for profit. 

That is a trend we should possibly be following more closely. 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
10/18/2013 | 7:33:54 PM
Re: Are we shock-proof?
I actually did a rather extensive search of the SpamHaus attack and never saw anything that said it was a PR hoax. A number of respected tech sites took this very seriously so if it is a hoax, it was wildly successful, fooling Cnet, Cisco, slashdot, zdnet, reddit and nextweb. 

I assume the organization you are criticizing is Cloudflare? I did find two reports criticizing them for exaggerating the potential impact of the SpamHaus attack, claiming it could have "broken" the Internet. But even critics admit this was a serious attack. 

Arbor isn't saying these larger attacks are breaking the Internet and yes, they have something to sell toe service providers but no one is hiding that, and being aware of ever larger DDoS attacks is still a good idea. 
User Rank: Light Beer
10/18/2013 | 5:58:27 PM
Re: Are we shock-proof?
You shuld check facts better.  The SpamHaous attack was so small, that nobody (except spamhaus) noticed.

The publicity campaign that was kicked off by the comapny they hired to fix their problem however, made up some numbers so crazy, that everyone saw "largets in history", and that PR has now replaced the truth.

the Spamhaus ISP published their traffic logs for the period in question in response, showing that there was no discernable peak or spike in data.  

It seem nothing can beat a good PR advertising campaign though :-(
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/18/2013 | 5:34:53 PM
Re: Are we shock-proof?
Hi Carol.  What exactly are hacktivist groups and what are their motives?  Can LR do an article on this subject? 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
10/18/2013 | 3:47:42 PM
Are we shock-proof?
Arbor has been tracking this stuff longer than most and while they usually have some shocking numbers to share, this current report is truly disturbing. 
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Rewired
To spur IoT apps and services, Verizon is offering ThingSpace and its accompanying APIs for free to developers, but there is a clear revenue strategy.
Group built on competitive carrier roots is trying to broaden its reach to represent a wider swatch of the competitive Internet.
AT&T has invested more in the US than any other firm in the past four years, but is its capex shrinking? Yes, no, maybe, for many reasons.
So North America is out of IPv4 addresses – that's incredibly anti-climactic. Unless it isn't, in which case you're in trouble.
As Masergy discovered, even working aggressively to make the business case for NFV in virtual CPE doesn't mean it's the answer everywhere.
From The Founder
Steve Saunders provides an overview of white box networking and introduces a new "slim line" version of the OSI 7-layer model.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Custom TV
Delivering Service Agility in the Virtualization Era

11|25|15   |   5.41   |   (0) comments

Interview with Massimo Fatato, WW OSS Business Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Wagner’s Ring
How Might Open Source Fail?

11|24|15   |     |   (7) comments

Open source, SDN, and NFV are looking inevitable – but performance, standards proliferation and regulatory capture could derail the movement.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Lifecycle Orchestration – a Fresh Vision for Telco

11|23|15   |   6.40   |   (0) comments

Simon Osborne, CTO Comptel, and Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell reveal the business impacts of new SDN and NFV, and what the term service orchestration actually means. Together they define Lifecycle Service Orchestration and how the virtualized future will look for telecoms operators.
Between the CEOs
Cisco's Virtual Role in Saudi

11|20|15   |   12:15   |   (1) comment

Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Leads With Kubernetes for Cloud PaaS

11|19|15   |   08:26   |   (0) comments

Huawei is looking to Kubernetes as a key tool for building robust open source technologies for customers and partners, said Ying Xiong, chief architect of cloud platform at Huawei, in an interview with Light Reading West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner at the recent Kubecon conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
WiC in London: The Highlight Reel

11|19|15   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

NetCracker's Mervat El Dabae headlines an inspiring morning in London with help from leading women from Vodafone, TalkTalk, Hyperoptics and Ciena.
LRTV Documentaries
Why Saudi's So Hot for New Tech

11|19|15   |   05:07   |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders reports from Saudi Arabia, a hyper-competitive market desperate to embrace the next generation of communications technologies and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Why Data Models Deliver More Value Than Information Models

11|19|15   |   5.08   |   (0) comments

Stefan Vallin argues that more automation is needed to manage end-to-end services and the hybrid networks they run on, and that data models are key to achieving this.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
SDN Management & Orchestration in the WAN

11|17|15   |   7.20   |   (0) comments

Carol Wilson and Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu discuss CSPs' SDN service delivery and assurance requirements. Learn about a modular approach to building automated control, orchestration and management functions for the WAN that are policy- and analytics-driven.
LRTV Custom TV
Flash Networks: Optimizing for Radio Spectral Efficiency

11|17|15   |   3:34   |   (0) comments

Today most optimization vendors only focus on optimizing voice or data. Ofer Gottfried, Flash Networks' CTO, shows how improving data throughput and maximizing spectral efficiency reduces capital and operating expenses while also providing a platform for user engagement.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Pay-TV User Experiences Millennial-Friendly

11|16|15   |   6:42   |   (0) comments

The unique challenge of reaching and engaging Millennials is driving pay-TV video experience transformation that can include higher quality UIs, viewing of multiple content streams at once and seamless transitions between handheld devices and the television.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Electric Power Summit 2015 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

11|16|15   |   1:28   |   (0) comments

Huawei, together with Ethiopia's Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, hosted the Huawei Electric Power Summit 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event gathered industry experts and senior executives of global electric power companies to discuss emerging industry trends including: improvements in new energy conversion efficiency, reduction of line losses ...
Allot MobileTrends Report H2/2015 reveals how daily online behavior can be used to discover smarter ways to profile customers and propose valuable, real-time offers to them.
Hot Topics
Samsung to Sell Wireless Networking Unit?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/23/2015
Sprint Undercuts Rivals With Half-Price Offers
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/18/2015
Sprint, Verizon Face Reorganization, Job Cuts
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/20/2015
Sprint to Get $1.2B From New Leasing Venture
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/23/2015
How Might Open Source Fail?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
December 15, 2015
Virtualizing Cable Services
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
Mobily CEO Ahmad Farroukh talks to Steve Saunders about the realities of being a mobile operator in Saudi Arabia.
Cats with Phones
Can't Find the Phone on Thanksgiving? Click Here
Check under the cat! (hint: bottom right)
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.