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UK sees huge rise in site-crippling DDoS attacks due to coronavirus

DDoS attacks by cyber criminals
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The UK has seen a huge increase in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, partly due to cybercriminals taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to new research from cybersecurity firm Netscout, the number of DDoS attacks in the UK has grown by 62% year-on-year.  The firm recorded over 248,000 attacks against targets in the UK between January 1 and May 31 of this year, up from 143,000 during the same period in 2019. 

The research says that: “Through the end of January 2020, we observed a constant growth in the overall DDoS attack rate as organizations continue to experience heightened levels of malicious traffic.”

In its research, the firm also analysed the most common DDoS attack vectors, observing that the majority of attacks during this period were volumetric in nature.

A DDoS attack is when hundreds or thousands of internet-connected devices bombard a single website or server with constant requests for information, tying up responding servers and rendering the website inaccessible.

Netscout said: “These attacks typically rely on relatively high rates of packets-per-second (pps) and/or bits-per-second (bps) in order to overwhelm targeted servers, services, applications, and network capacities.”

Attackers targeted individual IP addresses as well as larger networks, using so-called "carpet-bombing" attack addressing techniques.

The most common attack vector was DNS reflection/amplification, something Netscout described as unsurprising given the relatively large number of abusable open DNS recursors present on the internet today.

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Size and impact of DDoS attacks increasing

In 2020, the average attack bandwidth was around 1GB/sec, and while that may sound small, Netscout claims that attacks of this size are actually “operationally significant”. Bandwidth grew by 56% to 260.59TB/sec.

The largest DDoS attack observed in the UK this year was 488GB/sec and was launched against a telecoms organisation, compared to 352GB/sec in 2019. Finally, Netscout tracked the throughput of DDoS attacks and found that this increased by 47% in the UK.

“We’re not yet halfway through 2020, and it is quite likely that the size and impact of DDoS attacks will continue to grow in scale,” the report concludes.

“Given that the largest observed attack this year to date preceded the full onset of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic -- and all the changes in online usage and behaviours that this has brought about -- it is a reminder that organisations are exposed to an underlying, perpetual risk of a significant impact of DDoS attacks on their online presences and properties.”

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