IT security professionals are bracing for DDoS attacks of unprecedented frequency in the year ahead, and are already preparing for attacks that could disrupt the UK’s Brexit negotiations and cause outages worldwide.
That’s according to a survey from Corero Network Security, which found that more than half (57%) of respondents believe that the Brexit negotiations will be affected by DDoS attacks, with hackers using DDoS to disrupt the negotiations themselves, or using the attacks merely as camouflage while they seek to steal confidential documents or data.
The latter “hidden attack” scenario is on the radar of many, and it generally involves the use of smaller, low-volume DDoS attacks of less than 30 minutes in duration. As Corero found in its research, these Trojan-horse campaigns typically go un-mitigated by most legacy solutions, and are frequently used by hackers as a distraction mechanism for additional efforts, like data exfiltration.
About 63% of respondents are worried about these hidden effects of these attacks on their networks— particularly with the GDPR deadline fast-approaching, where organizations could be fined up to 4% of global turnover in the event of a data breach.
At the same time, worryingly, less than a third (30%) of IT security teams have enough visibility into their networks to mitigate attacks of less than 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, many in the industry expect to see a significant escalation of DDoS attacks during the year ahead, with some (38%) predicting that there could even be worldwide Internet outages during 2017.
As for who’s behind the growing wave of attacks, the perpetrators are generally financially motivated, IT pros said—despite continued discussions about nation-state attackers or political activism. Security teams believe that criminal extortionists are the most likely group to inflict a DDoS attack against their organizations, with 38% expecting attacks to be financially motivated. By contrast, just 11% believe that hostile nations would be behind a DDoS attack against their organization.
This financial motivation explains why almost half of those surveyed (46%) expect to be targeted by a DDoS-related ransom demand over the next 12 months. Worryingly, 62% believe it is likely or possible that their leadership team would pay.
“Despite continued advice that victims should not pay a ransom, a worrying number of security professionals seem to believe that their leadership teams would still consider making a payment in the event of an attack,” said Ashley Stephenson, CEO of Corero. “Corporations need to be proactive and invest in their cybersecurity defenses against DDoS and ransomware to protect themselves against such extortion.”
The good news is that the vast majority of security teams (70%) are already taking steps to stay ahead of the threats, such as putting business continuity measures in place to allow their organizations to continue operating in the event of worldwide attacks. However, they also agree that some responsibility for DDoS protection lies with the ISPs; and about a quarter of those surveyed (25%) believe their ISP is primarily to blame for not mitigating DDoS attacks.
At the end of 2016, the head of Britain’s new National Cyber Security Centre suggested that the UK’s ISPs could restrict the volume of DDoS attacks across their networks by rewriting internet standards around spoofing. Continued discussions on this topic have led nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) to expect regulatory pressure to be applied against ISPs who are perceived to be not protecting their customers against DDoS threats.
“While most in the IT security industry wouldn’t expect their ISP to automatically protect them against DDoS attacks, there is a growing trend to blame upstream providers for not being more proactive when it comes to DDoS defense,” said Stephenson. “To help their cause, ISPs could do more to position themselves as leading the charge against DDoS attacks, both in terms of protecting their own networks, and by offering more comprehensive solutions to their customers as a paid-for, managed service.”