Source: Securelist – Kaspersky
Headline: DDoS attacks in Q3 2020
Q3 was relatively calm from a DDoS perspective. There were no headline innovations, although cybercriminals did continue to master techniques and develop malware already familiar to us from the last reporting period. For example, another DDoS botnet joined in the assault on Docker environments. The perpetrators infiltrated the target server, created an infected container, and placed in it the Kaiten bot (also known as Tsunami), paired with a cryptominer.
The Lucifer botnet, which first appeared on researchers’ radar last quarter, and knows all about DDoS attacks and cryptocurrency mining, got an update, and now infects not only Windows, but also Linux devices. In DDoS attacks, the new version can use all major protocols (TCP, UDP, ICMP, HTTP) and spoof the IP address of the traffic source.
On the topic of actual DDoS attacks, Q3 was not that eventful. The most newsworthy were extortion attacks allegedly carried out by actors known for hiding behind variously named APT groups: FancyBear, Armada Collective, Lazarus, and others. The ransomers send bitcoin ransom emails to organizations around the world, demanding from 5 BTC to 20 BTC, and threatening a powerful and sustained DDoS attack in case of non-payment. After that, the victim is flooded with junk traffic to demonstrate that the threats are far from empty.
In August and early September, several organizations in New Zealand were hit, including the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX), which was taken offline for several days. Also among the victims were the Indian bank YesBank, PayPal, Worldpay, Braintree, and other financial companies. Another DDoS wave of bitcoin ransom demands affected a number of European ISPs; however, it’s not known for sure whether this was the work of the same group. At the end of September, financial and telecommunications companies in Hungary were rocked by a powerful DDoS attack. According to Magyar Telekom, the junk traffic came from Russia, China, and Vietnam. Whether the cybercriminals sent ransom messages as part of the attack is unknown.
The back end of September saw a series of DDoS attacks on public flight-tracking services. The victims included the Swedish website Flightradar24 and the UK platform Plane Finder, which monitor the movement of aircraft in real time. These services are in great demand: meeters and greeters can check if a flight is on time, and media use the information when reporting on aircraft incidents. As a result, the services worked only intermittently, and their Twitter accounts posted messages that an attack had taken place. A tweet from Flightradar24, for instance, reported that the resource had suffered no fewer than three attacks in a short space of time. US company FlightAware also reported service availability issues, but did not specify whether it was an attack or just a malfunction.
Q3 was not without traditional attacks on the media. Russian TV station Dozhd reported a DDoS incident on August 24. Unknown cyberactors attempted to take the resource offline during daytime and evening news broadcasts. In early September, cybercriminals targeted the news agency UgraPRO. According to media reports, the junk traffic originated from Russian and foreign IP addresses at a rate of more than 5,000 requests per second. In late September, the news portals Chronicles of Turkmenistan and Sputnik Armenia reported attacks on their websites.
Lastly, due to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions in Russia, the Unified State Exam, sat by final grade students in Russian schools, was this year postponed to July. This could hardly fail to impact the DDoS landscape: in the middle of the month, the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) reported an attempt to disrupt the exam results portal. Fortunately, the results had not yet been uploaded, so the attack was a wasted effort.
More school-related attacks were predictably seen at the start of the academic year. For example, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, a DDoS wave swept across the websites of local educational institutions, disrupting online classes. However, one of the juvenile cybercriminals met with near-instant karma: the schools brought in the FBI, and by September 3 the delinquent had been arrested. The other perpetrators are still being traced.
On the topic of the FBI, in Q2 the agency issued two anti-DDoS alerts for businesses. In July, a document was released containing a brief description of new amplification methods, as well as recommendations for detecting attacks and measures to prevent them. And in late August, it published a fairly detailed report on DDoS extortionists activity, again with tips for countering such attacks.
In Q3, we observed a significant drop in all indicators relative to the previous reporting period. This is more likely due to the anomalous DDoS activity seen in Q2 than any unusual lull this quarter, which becomes clear when comparing the current picture with data for the same period in 2019: total attacks increased by 1.5 times, while the number of smart attacks almost doubled.