Arbor Report Shows Size, Complexity of Network Attacks Exploding

'Weaponization' of IoT and attack volume technology means attacks are exploding in scale, complexity and frequency.

January 24, 2017

4 Min Read

BURLINGTON, Mass. -- Arbor Networks Inc., the security division of Netscout, today released its 12th Annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report (WISR) offering direct insights from network and security professionals at the world’s leading service provider, cloud/hosting and enterprise organizations. The report covers a comprehensive range of issues from threat detection and incident response to managed services, staffing and budgets. Its focus is on the operational challenges internet operators face daily from network-based threats and the strategies adopted to address and mitigate them.

This year’s report shows the stakes have changed for network and security teams. The threat landscape has been transformed by the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) botnets. As IoT devices proliferate across networks, bringing tremendous benefits to businesses and consumers, attackers are able to weaponize them due to inherent security vulnerabilities. This year’s report goes in-depth, covering how attackers exploit and recruit IoT devices, how IoT botnets enabled by Mirai source code operate and offers practical advice on how to defend against them.

The largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack reported this year was 800 Gbit/s, a 60% increase over 2015’s largest attack of 500 Gbit/s. Not only are DDoS attacks getting larger, but they are also becoming more frequent and complex. This increased scale and complexity has led more businesses to deploy purpose-built DDoS protection solutions, implement best practice hybrid defenses and increase time for incident response practice – all positive developments in an otherwise gloomy threat environment.

“The survey respondents have grown accustomed to a constantly evolving threat environment with steady increases in attack size and complexity over the past decade,” said Darren Anstee, Arbor Networks Chief Security Technologist. “However, IoT botnets are a game changer because of the numbers involved. There are billions of these devices deployed, and they are being easily weaponized to launch massive attacks. Increasing concern over the threat environment is reflected in the survey results, which show significant improvements in the deployment of best practice technologies and response processes.”

Among the key findings:

  • Innovation and Exploitation Fuel DDoS Attack Landscape: The emergence of botnets that exploit inherent security weaknesses in IoT devices and the release of the Mirai botnet source code have increased attackers’ abilities to launch extremely large attacks.

  • Scale: The massive growth in attack size has been driven by increased attack activity on all reflection/amplification protocols, and by the weaponization of IoT devices and the emergence of IoT botnets. Since Arbor began the WISR in 2005, DDoS attack size has grown 7,900%, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44%. In the past five years alone, DDoS attack size has grown 1,233%, for a CAGR of 68%.

  • Frequency: The chances of being hit by a DDoS attack have never been higher, with respondents showing increased rates of attack. Fifty-three percent of service providers indicated they are seeing more than 21 attacks per month – up from 44% last year. Twenty-one percent of data-center respondents saw more than 50 attacks per month, versus only 8% last year and 45% of enterprise, government and education respondents experienced more than 10 attacks per month – a 17% year over year increase.

  • Complexity: Multiple simultaneous attack vectors are increasingly being used to target different aspects of a victim’s infrastructure at the same time. These multi-vector attacks are popular because they can be difficult to defend against and are often highly effective, driving home the need for an agile, multi-layer defense. The report shows 67% of service providers and 40% of Enterprise, Government and Education (EGE) reported seeing multi-vector attacks on their networks.

  • Consequences of DDoS Attacks Are Becoming Clear: DDoS attacks have successfully made many leading web properties unreachable – costing thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars in revenue. This has led the C-suite and company boards to make DDoS defense a top priority. In the report, 61% of data center operators reported attacks totally saturating data center bandwidth; 25% of data center and cloud providers saw the cost of a major DDoS attack rise above $100,000, and 5% cited costs of over $1 million.In addition, 41% of EGE organizations reported DDoS attacks exceeding their total internet capacity. Nearly 60% of EGE respondents estimate downtime costs above $500/minute.

  • More Appreciation of Risk Leads to Better Behavior: This year’s survey results indicate a better understanding of the brand damage and operational expense of successful DDoS attacks, driving focus on best-practice defensive strategies. Across the board, in every industry, there has been an increase in the use of purpose-built DDoS protection solutions and best practice methods:

    • 77% of service provider respondents are capable of mitigating attacks in less than 20 minutes.

    • Nearly 55% of EGE respondents now carry out DDoS defense simulations, with approximately 40% carrying them out at least quarterly.

    • The proportion of data center and cloud provider respondents that are using firewalls for DDoS defense has fallen from 71% to 40%.

    Arbor Networks

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