Bitcoin exchange Bitfinex says its systems have been restored after the company was hit by a second denial of service attack in just over a week.
Bitfinex, which claims to be the world’s largest and most advanced cryptocurrency exchange, says it has restored its systems after coming under a “heavy” distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
Despite claiming on its website that Bitfinex is “protected by automatic distributed denial of service” systems, the company has been affected twice in December 2017 and once in November by DDoS attacks.
According to Bitfinex, the attackers created “hundreds of thousands of new accounts,” causing stress on the Bitfinex’s infrastructure. The exchange said it took about 12 hours to restore normal operations and that new user signups had been suspended temporarily to reduce demand on its infrastructure.
The latest DDoS attack on Bitfinex comes just days after an Imperva report showed that the bitcoin industry was one of the top ten industries most targeted by DDoS attacks in the third quarter of 2017.
Cyber security industry analysts say the increased interest in Bitcoin as its value continues to surge is making it a prime target for cyber criminals either for extortion or theft.
Igal Zeifman, director at Imperva Incapsula, extortionists and other cyber criminals are commonly drawn to successful online industries, especially emerging ones that are less likely to be well protected.
“Specifically for bitcoin, the DDoS attacks we mitigated could also have been attempts to manipulate the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, something we know offenders had tried in the past,” he said.
According to the Imperva report, organisations targeted by DDoS campaigns in the third quarter spent an average of 12 hours under attack.
This latest DDoS attack on Bitfinex underlines how increased prominence can make businesses more vulnerable to DDoS attacks, said Kirill Kasavchenko, principal security technologist for Europe at Arbor Networks.
“The bitcoin market has been a hot topic over the past week, which has led to a surge in buyers,” he said. “Hackers are notoriously opportunistic, so it makes sense that they’re seizing this opportunity to make it difficult for Bitfinex to maintain usual business activities.”
Businesses which rely on their website as a route to market, said Kasavchenko, must learn lessons from this, and evaluate whether their current DDoS protection could work harder for their business.
“In response to bitcoin’s growth, attackers might launch DDoS attacks against exchanges not only as extortion threat, but also as a way to manipulate cryptocurrency rates by making trading platforms unavailable.
“Last but not least, cryptocurrencies do not have any legal status in most countries,” he said. “This means prosecution of attackers is often problematic not only from technical, but also from a legal point of view.”
Targeting bitcoin exchanges
In line with the trend of targeting bitcoin exchanges, cyber criminals stole nearly $80m worth of bitcoin from bitcoin mining and exchange service NiceHash.
According to NiceHash, the attackers – believed to be from outside the EU – accessed the company’s systems at around 00:18 GMT on 7 December, and began stealing bitcoin three and a half hours later.
This is the latest in a string of cryptocurrency heists in 2017, and security researchers are predicting the trend will only intensify in 2018.
As the bitcoin value continues to soar, its attractiveness to attackers – both at a criminal and nation state level – will increase in proportion, according to Richard Ford, chief scientist at security firm Forcepoint.