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Why Attackers are Focusing on Low-Volume Persistent DDoS Attacks



Written by Anthony Webb, VP of International, A10 Networks

The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges and changes to the world as we know it. As enterprises quickly moved to remote working also implementing a new hybrid set-up, adversaries have seized the opportunity and we have witnessed significant growth in the number of cyberattacks. In particular, DDoS attacks have grown – not only in size and frequency – but adversaries have also swivelled to focus on low-volume, persistent attacks that run for longer periods of time, frequently injecting attack traffic. These low-volume attacks enable adversaries to evade basic defensive measures, yet they still have significant impact on enterprise systems and operations.

Modern malware is hijacking IoT devices
As the name indicates, DDoS attacks are distributed in nature. A single attack may employ multiple DDoS weapons to overwhelm the victim’s network and defences. Our security research team have been tracking DDoS weapons and their behaviours and reporting on their frequency and impact over the last several years. Our latest H1 2021 DDoS Attack Mitigation: Global State of DDoS Weapons Report provides detailed insights into the origins of DDoS activity, highlighting how easily and quickly modern malware can hijack IoT devices and convert them into malicious botnets. The report also provides some helpful guidance on what organisations can do to protect against such activities and act rather than sit and wait for the inevitable to happen.

What we can see is that with new attacks and new malware variants, we are witnessing new layers of sophistication in how IoT and smart devices are being weaponised. Cybercriminals are recruiting IoT devices into their botnet armies, aided by Mozi malware and spreading this around the world. Here I’ve summarised some of the key findings:

DDoS weapons are steadily growing
The total number of DDoS weapons increased by 2.5 million during H1 2021 this was the same as previous quarters, meaning the number of DDoS weapons has been steadily growing with a total number of 15 million weapons tracked. SSDP (Simple Service Discovery Protocol) remains the largest reflected amplification weapon with 3.2 million potential weapons exposed to the internet. This is an increase of over 28 percent compared to the previous reporting period.

And while DDoS attackers have been increasingly focused on smaller attacks launched persistently over a longer period, these larger-scale attacks might not occur as frequently, but they cause a lot of damage and make significant headlines as a result. The rest of the amplification weapons remained virtually the same with SNMP, Portmap, TFTP and DNS Resolvers as the top five. It is important to note that all these weapons experienced growth in numbers except for DNS Resolvers. 

China leads the way
DDoS attacks are not limited to a specific geographic location and can originate from and attack organisations anywhere in the world. However, what we found in this report is that China (for the second reporting period in a row) continues to lead the way in hosting the highest number of potential DDoS weapons including both amplification weapons and botnet agents. This was closely followed by the U.S. which remains the second-largest source of DDoS weaponry, particularly amplification weapons, followed by South Korea.

This edition of the threat intelligence report takes a deeper look at how botnets work. Botnets or drones are compute nodes like computers, servers, routers, cameras and other IoT devices infected by malware and are the tools controlled and used by DDoS attackers. Malware has been playing an important role in the expansion of botnets, automating the process of bot infection and recruitment. Subsequently, these botnets are used to launch large-scale DDoS attacks. The increase or decrease of botnets can be attributed to factors such as the growth of IoT, new vulnerabilities, as well as CVEs exploited by attackers, large-scale security updates to patch CVEs and botnet takedowns.

Botnet agents halve in H1 2021
In H1 2021, the total number of botnet agents almost halved with 449,509 tracked and China hosting 44% of the total number of drones available worldwide. This is likely due to the high-profile takedown of the Emotet botnet, one of the largest botnets in the world, dubbed “the internet’s most dangerous malware”. In early 2021 international law enforcement took down Emotet’s command and control infrastructure in more than 90 countries. While this takedown was a contributing factor to the large-scale reduction in botnet agents, it is important to note that these changes may be temporary as attackers can quickly build their infrastructures back up and exploit network systems and vulnerabilities.

One other particularly prevalent malware in the DDoS world is Mozi. Mozi is a DDoS-focused botnet that utilises a large set of Remote Code Executions (RCEs) to leverage Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) in IoT devices for infection. Once infected, the botnet uses peer-to-peer connectivity to send and receive configuration updates and attack commands. Our report found that in the first half of 2021 Mozi reached 360,000 systems from manufacturers including Huawei, Realtek, NETGEAR and many others. The Mozi botnet includes infected bots around the globe with China, India, Russia, Brazil leading the list of countries and regions.

Strategies for protecting the network against DDoS attacks
So how do organisations protect their networks and resources against such attacks? Organisations should invest in Zero Trust models and create micro-perimeters within the network to limit access to resources. They should also look to invest in modern AI and machine learning solutions that will not only defeat attacks but also protect against the unknown.

Likewise, organisations should investigate whether they are already infected. If network devices suddenly start generating abnormal amounts of traffic this might be because they are infected and, in this instance, they should immediately isolate suspicious devices and limit the traffic originating from these devices.

It is important to observe and block commonly exploited ports, and potentially block, payloads and any BitTorrent traffic coming into or going out the network. Above all, organisations should make sure that their security infrastructure is regularly updated and that IoT devices are running the latest firmware with all the necessary security patches. And finally, they should use modern DDoS techniques like baselining to see anomalous behaviour versus historical norms. Additionally, AI/ML techniques for detection and zero-day attack prevention can really help security teams.

As we prepare for 2022, it is commonly acknowledged that hybrid and remote working environments are here to stay, and security teams will need to look at how they secure a mix of on-premises, multi-cloud and edge-cloud environments. Sophisticated DDoS threat intelligence combined with real-time threat detection, AI and ML capabilities as well as automated signature extraction allow organisations to defend against all kinds of DDoS attacks, no matter where they originate.

Expert Speak

Don’t Brush It Off – Plan Your Incident Response Now



In business, impermanence is the only certainty. An example is how organizations addressed the COVID-19 pandemic. Within a few weeks, many developed a plan to run their businesses remotely.

More than three-quarters of organizations worldwide don’t have an IT incident response plan in place because most believe they have little risk of becoming a cyberattack statistic. Unfortunately, that’s still likely to happen.

According to africanews, in the past year, Kenya has experienced a concerning rise in cyberattacks, with a remarkable 860 million incidents documented in 2022.

As wisely expressed by Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” Let’s explore a strategic incident response plan for your organization.

Create a Backup
Business networks are complex and large, and oftentimes, a network outage results in financial and reputational repercussions, including disgruntled clients. It’s imperative to create a backup of critical data and systems that you can’t run your business without, and store it in a safe location. When the inevitable breach occurs, your business will be able to recover as quickly as possible.

Never Say Never
While a workforce continuity plan might seem unimportant and nonurgent, the pandemic prompted IT departments worldwide to quickly realize the importance of being able to rapidly change the way their organizations conducted business.

Here are a few steps to help you draft a business continuity plan to address the next disruption:

  • Form a team with representatives from each department and understand their workflow.
  • Identify critical business functions and find a way to prioritize them.
  • Assess the risks for every process in your organization and record them.
  • Develop a risk mitigation strategy to protect your critical business functions from those risks.
  • Document the entire procedure and keep it up to date.

Train Your Employees
A common hurdle with an incident response plan is ensuring that employees take the plan seriously. To deter the mindset that the plan is “less urgent,” educate employees about its importance and the repercussions that can result from cyber threats and cyber incidents. It’s vital to conduct regular training sessions to address hardware failures, software glitches, network outages, and security breaches so that you efficiently mitigate a cybersecurity incident.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Understand the points of failure in your previous incidents and find a way to rectify them. Single points of failure should be addressed by establishing a backup, not just in terms of network and systems but also in terms of staff allocation. Relying on a single person, especially when it comes to a critical network, is not a great idea. Delegate a second person to reach out and provide assistance in case of an incident.

While incident response might seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things, when a disaster hits, it could potentially devastate your business. Take some time to prioritize incident management and make it part of your organization’s culture by creating a backup, training your employees, drafting a workplace continuity plan, and learning from your past incidents. Learn more about IT incident management for your business.

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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity on a Budget: Affordable Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses



According to a survey by Statista, typically, global enterprises dedicate a minimum of 12% of their IT expenditure to information security measures. While larger companies can afford to spend a lot on building a robust cybersecurity strategy, smaller businesses cannot. So, let’s explore some affordable cybersecurity strategies for small businesses that may cost less but have a greater impact.

Train your employees
An article from Forbes found that, annually, 34% of businesses worldwide encounter incidents involving insider attacks. Whether intentional or unintentional, employees tend to be the reason for most data breaches. Per the same article, phishing emails account for 67% of accidental insider attacks.

Phishing attacks mostly instil a sense of urgency in the victim, making it harder for them to think clearly before making a decision. For example, employees may click an email announcement about a bonus that actually came from a malicious outsider impersonating your company’s CEO.

To avoid such mistakes, it’s imperative to train employees on the types of phishing attacks and the ways to identify them. Even going as far as sending a mock phishing email occasionally to test their instincts and educate them can go a long way.

Assess your vulnerabilities
One of the most important cybersecurity strategies is to assess all your risk points by periodically reviewing all your business processes. Pay more attention to teams that deal with a lot of customer data. For instance, sales and marketing teams may handle customer data on a day-to-day basis, so they are at high risk of leaking or mishandling data. Assess their daily activities, create a record of all the risk points, and find ways to mitigate them.

Encrypt your data
Encrypting your data can be an effective method to protect it in case of data leaks. Let’s say a hacker gets hold of your company’s data, but it’s encrypted. Unless the hacker gets the encryption key from you, they cannot access your company’s data. This adds another layer of protection in addition to the everyday cybersecurity best practices that you should be following in your company. So make it a point to encrypt all your data, especially sensitive and critical data.

Limit access to critical data
Not everyone requires access to all data. Try to limit access to critical and sensitive data to fewer employees by basing access on work duties or requiring approval for access, making it a multi-step process to access it. Additionally, periodically review who has access to what data to ensure there aren’t any misallocations of access.

Secure your Wi-Fi
A secure network will reduce the chances of a hack or unauthorized access to your sensitive data. So switch your Wi-Fi to WPA2 or later, as it offers more security. Your business might already be using it, but it’s best to be sure. Additionally, change the name of your SSID and have a strong pre-shared key to keep your Wi-Fi safe from hackers.

Prevent physical theft
Through April 2023, there were 3,785 robberies in London, and 1,765 were of mobile phones. This highlights how important it is to secure your physical assets, as they might contain critical and sensitive information about your organization.

Here are some ways to protect your physical assets, such as PCs, laptops, scanners, and printers:

  1. Restrict unauthorized access to assets.
  2. Install a physical tracker on all devices to track down lost items.
  3. Enable remote wiping of data to erase information if a device is lost.

Cybersecurity strategies are seldom drafted with affordability in mind. However, it is crucial to consider them from a financial perspective, as small businesses are also increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. These tips can help you take the first step toward creating a secure IT environment. Learn more about cybersecurity solutions for your business.

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Cyber Security

Managed Security Service: Right Choice for Your Company?



Written by Lev Matveev, SearchInform Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors

75% of information security experts consider insider threats more dangerous than hacker attacks. This is proven by the SearchInform survey conducted annually. Insider threats include data loss, fraud, theft, kickbacks, business on the side, etc. These are serious risks for any business, resulting in major financial losses, reputational damage and fines from law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, many companies still do not ensure reliable protection against insider threats.

The reasons are the following:

  • Hardware and software for data protection are costly
  • The market lacks data security experts
  • SMEs cannot compete with large enterprises to engage professionals.

According to our 2022 survey, one-third of companies recognize an acute shortage of information security experts and cannot ensure protection in-house. Therefore, in 2019 we decided to launch a managed security service based on our protection solutions, which gives the opportunity to use them without hiring security specialists.

The SearchInform service provides protection against data breaches, internal fraud, document forgery and other violations by employees. It solves the tasks of monitoring employee working hours, compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, and many more.

We take on all tasks that are usually handled by in-house security staff. Our experts install and maintain security software, customize security policies for effective control, constantly monitor the situation in the company, detect incidents and investigate them. The client receives detailed and visual reports, as well as emergency alerts if it is required to take urgent measures and prevent an incident.

Availing the service, the client does not need to hire a security expert and therefore does not need to spend on social benefits, vacations or sick leaves. The client’s business remains protected if a security employee resigns or takes an unpaid leave. At the same time, our analyst has diverse work experience, knows the solutions well and has all the necessary competencies to work with them.  Since we are unacquainted with the client’s employees, our expert will be impartial and will not take anyone’s side. All this allows the clients to save time and money.

When do companies really need MSS?
According to our observations, the service is the best choice for companies with 30-500 employees and without an in-house IS department.  When the staff number increases, top managers can no longer control everything and face a high risk of incidents.

Here are a few common situations when you should choose managed security service.

  1. A company does not have internal security officers or lacks the budget to form a security department. Our service was originated to make data security more affordable. It significantly reduces the company’s costs, as there is no need to purchase software licenses, hardware, or hire a full-time information security officer. 
  2. Full-scale protection is required immediately. Companies often turn to managed security services after an incident has already occurred. It becomes clear that to prevent this in future, it is necessary to implement special security software, purchase additional equipment, and hire a data security officer. These steps will take a lot of time. The service will start protecting your business within 1-2 days.
  3. A company is not sure that the purchase of security systems will pay off eventually. Our service is an opportunity to test them in real conditions and assess whether they are worth purchasing in each specific case. One first month of the service is free.
  4. A company wants to conduct a security audit and get a complete picture of the corporate security. The service allows you to quickly find out what data is stored, where exactly it is stored and whether there are access rights violations. As far as the first month, our expert detects cases of corporate fraud, document forgery and other violations, as well as cases of idleness, business on the side or work for competitors. 
  5. For compliance with regulatory requirements. More and more regulations are being adopted or waiting to be adopted. SAMA, GDPR, and DCC incentivize companies to take measures to ensure data security. Some regulations, such as the UAE Information Security Regulation issued by the United Arab Emirates Telecommunications and Digital Technology Authority, even stipulate the use of DLP as a means of preventing data loss. To avoid the risk of hefty fines or lawsuits for non-compliance, you can use our managed security service.

I believe that outsourced data security should soon become as widespread as outsourced accounting or IT services. It is just a matter of time.

SearchInform offers a free trial version for one month! 

During this month, clients can assess whether the service really meets their needs. According to our experience, 100% of companies discover some kind of problems during the trial, ranging from the idleness of their employees to corporate fraud and confidential data leakage. 70% of companies that request a free trial continue to work with us.

Request a free trial of the service for one month!

Contact us for more information:
Office Address: 10C-15, I-Rise Tower, Hessa Street, Barsha Heights, Dubai, UAE.

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