Prolexic Q3 2012 … a new generation of DDoS attacks

Pierluigi Paganini October 19, 2012

The second half of 2012 is started with an sensible increase of Distributed denial-of-service attacks against financial institutions and banking that caused several problems to the victims.

To face with a so dangerous menace it’s fundament to analyze the phenomena starting from the data provided by security firms that desing solutions to protect companies from this kind of attacks, they have a privileged point of view because they are able to collect data directly from the field, acquiring information from the systems they installed to the customes.

Prolexic is a well know vendor that periodically publish interesting statistics on DDoS attacks and their evolution, and due recent attacks I find useful the analysis of last Q3 2012 report.

The title of the report is exhaustive, “Q3 2012 was defined by extremely large DDoS attacks. It is clear that bitrates of 20 Gbps are the new norm”, it has been observed an increase number of attacks with an average bitrate in excess of 20 Gbps, a worrying trend if we consider that the majority of company are imprepared to these offensives.

So large attacks represents a novelty compared to similar isolated events occurred last year according the declaration of Prolexic’s president Stuart Scholly.

This is significant because very few companies or organizations have the necessary network infrastructure to deal with such attacks. There might be some companies with popular websites such as Google or Facebook that are able to handle such high-bandwidth floods, but most companies are not, Scholly said.

How to mitigate so powerful attacks?

Prolexic is planning to respond to the new wave of attacks upgrading the capacity of its own cloud-based DDoS mitigation infrastructure to hold out high-bandwidth attacks.

The report provides an interesting comparison with the same period of previous year and also with the data registered in the previous quarter.

The scenario is worst respect same period of last year, it has been observed an increase of the number of the attacks of 88 percent but what is impressive is the efficiency of the offensive, to a reduction in of the average attack duration (19 hours vs. 33 hours) is corresponded an increase in average attack bandwidth of 230 percent reaching 4.9Gbps.

What is changed respect previous quarter?

Despite the total number of attacks is declined of 14 percent it has been registered an increase in average attack bandwidth of 11 percent.

The average attack duration is slight increased passing from 17 hours to 19 hours and also Packet-per-second volume increase of 33 percent.

Prolexic firm classifies DDoS attacks into those targeting infrastructure (Layer 3 and 4) and applications (Layer 7), the first group accounted for 81.40 during Q3 2012 while application- based attacks represented 18.60 percent.



Once again China confirms the leadership for origin DDoS attacks, 35.46%, mainly linked to the effect of botnet diffusion  followed by U.S. at 27.85% percent and India at 7,8 %. Let’s note that the only country of South America is Brazil, but Prolexic alerted on a gradual increase in botnet activity originating from that area.



The Prolexic noted that the high-bandwidth DDoS attacks are arranged in different way respect the past, in the last incidents weren’t caused by botnets of compromised computers to launch the attack but by botnets of compromised servers exploited by attackers due the presence of un patched vulnerabilities in outdated architectures and applications.

On the occasion of the recent attacks against U.S. banks Dan Holden, director of research at Arbor Networks, confirmed  that the attackers were compromising PHP applications on web servers and WordPress sites using the outdated TimThumb plugin in order to deploy tools that allowed total control of the victims.

“Attackers connect to the tools directly or through intermediate servers/proxies/scripts and therefore the concept of command and control does not apply in the usual manner,” he declared to CSO Web Site.

The report proposes a case Study on “itsoknoproblembro” web-based DDoS suite, the toolkit used to launch high-bandwidth attacks against U.S. financial institutions, despite the origin of the application isn’t clear, the experts of Prolexis noted that it is constantly improved.

The report states:

“A tsunami of high bandwidth packet floods was observed during Q3 2012. These attacks targeted a number of high profile organizations within financial services, media/telecom, energy, and other sectors. The bot toolkit responsible for the majority of these attacks is a PHP-based suite known as “itsoknoproblembro”, and the infected hosts are known as “brobots.”

The toolkit is used by a meaningful number of attackers that don’t need administrative privileges access to a compromised server in order to install it and launch attack.

What is the main advantage of “Itsoknoproblembro”?

The toolkit appears very simple to manage and according Prolexic experts it “allows attackers to react faster to any defenses they might encounter and modify their attack strategy”, it is so considered an adaptive tool that allows attackers to send the orders to the compromised servers almost instantly.

What to expect in Q4?

The increase in the number of observed attacks and related offensive capability leave bode well for the next quarter, we also consider that the period is historically “delicate” for the approaching Christmas Holiday.

This time of year we expect an increase in online shopping and in general the use of web services that are the main targets of attackers responsible for the offensives discussed.

Most likely these attackers will be able to adopt new and advanced toolkit to generate amplified and sophisticated DDoS floods.

Pierluigi Paganini

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