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 WS-Discovery attacks, which 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 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.

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.

DDoS is also going mobile, researchers found, noting the popularity of DDoS weapons hosted by mobile carriers “skyrocketed” toward the end of 2019. 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.

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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

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