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Denial of service attacks increasing in frequency, severity: Survey


Companies experienced a dramatic increase in the number and strength of denial of service attacks on their computer systems during this year's second quarter, according to a survey issued Wednesday by Prolexic Technologies.

The Hollywood, Fla.-based provider of distributed denial of service protection services, said in the report that there was a 33% increase in the total number of distributed denial of services attacks for the second quarter of 2013 compared with the year-ago quarter.

“Distributed” means several computers are involved in the attacks. The company said its data is based on information from its client base.

The survey also found that the average packet-per-second rate of the attacks reached 47.4 megapackets per second, a 1,655% increase from the comparable period a year ago, while the average bandwidth reached 49.2 gigabits per second, which was a 925% increase over the prior-year period. Both measurements refer to the amount of data sent per unit of time.

“These figures reflect that attacks in the quarter were extremely intense, and perpetrators have considerable firepower at their disposal,” says the report. “Absorbing attacks of this size is far beyond the capacity of all but the largest corporate networks and even many mitigation providers,” it states.

Prolexic President Stuart Scholly said in a statement, “This quarter we logged increases for all major (distributed denial of service) attack metrics, and some have been significant. (Distributed denial of service) attacks are getting bigger, stronger and longer,” he said.

The survey found also that the average duration of attacks are increasing, rising from 17 hours in the first quarter of 2012 and 34.5 hours during this year's first quarter, to 38 hours in this quarter.


“Attack durations are likely increasing because perpetrators are less concerned about detection and protecting their botnets,” Mr. Scholly said in the statement. “The widespread availability of compromised Web servers makes it much easier for malicious actors to replenish, grow and redeploy botnets.”

A botnet is a private computer network that is infected with malicious software without its owner's knowledge.

“Traditionally, botnets have been built from compromised clients. This requires malware distribution (personal computers) and virus infections, and takes considerable time and effort. Consequently, attackers wanted to protect their client-based botnets and were more fearful of detection, so we saw shorter attack durations” in the past.

“Once again, financial services firms were heavily targeted, but a wide variety of industries were also victimized by attacks, including leading brands in retail, health care, high tech, media and telecom, travel and other sectors,” said the report.

China was the most frequent source country of distributed denial of service attacks, accounting for 39.5% of the total, according to the report. This was a slight decrease from the 40.7% total of all malicious distributed denial of service attacks for which it accounted during this year's first quarter.

China was followed by Mexico, which accounted for 27.3% of the total, according to the survey. “The appearance of Mexico as a source of malicious (distributed denial of service) traffic is significant, as this country did not appear as a top source country” during last year's second quarter, says the report.

“Mexico has the largest Spanish-language Internet market with an approximate user base of 46 million people,” said the report.

Russia, which accounted for 7.6% of attacks, was the next most frequent country of origin, followed by Korea, France, the United States, Italy, Iran, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

Copies of the survey are available here.

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