Gartner VP Confirms DDoS Attacks Were Used as Smoke Screens to Hide Financial Fraud

Linda Musthaler
By | October 23, 2013

Posted in: Network Security Trends , Enterprise DDoS Protection

In an article posted on, Gartner Research vice president Avivah Litan confirms that some of the DDoS attacks that have rippled through the banking industry over the past year have been a cover-up for fraud. While bank cyber security personnel were distracted in combating the denial of service attacks, hackers were busy executing account takeover and other fraudulent schemes.

In the worst of the cases, the fraudsters took control of a banking institution's payment switch during the midst of a DDoS attack. With access to this switch (which is just a piece of software), the criminals could siphon off money from multiple accounts at a time. Litan speculates that at least $10 million was stolen from multiple banks in this fashion.

When asked about the role of the DDoS attack in the fraud scheme, Litan said: “DDoS is a distraction, so when you're under an attack, all eyes are on the attack, and there's not as many resources paying attention to other parts of your system. You may even have alarms going off that you just don't have time to pay attention to, because most of the alarms that go off still have to be investigated manually.”

Banks aren’t the only organizations that are susceptible to hidden attacks that are covered up by DDoS attacks. Copycat hackers could learn from the success of the multi-flank attacks against the banks to deploy similar techniques to gain access to intellectual property and other sensitive information.

Francis DeSouza, Symantec's head of enterprise products and services, said his company has observed such activity. "DDoSes have gone from being a blunt-forced attack to being a sophisticated diversionary attack to disguise another attack." DeSouza advises that the most effective way to prevent attacks is not just to look out for DDoS but to look at the end-to-end attack in its entirety.

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