DDoS Attacks, Who Dunnit? The Fight for Improved Detection and Protection

Kaspersky Lab and B2B International recently polled 4,000 businesses among 25 countries that had been hit by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack; 40% of respondents said they believed that a rival business had launched the attack. Only 20% of DDoS victims blamed foreign governments and secret service organizations, and another 20% suspect disgruntled former employees.

These are interesting statistics, given that it is extremely difficult to determine who launched a DDoS attack. Has law enforcement found any trends to support this belief that many DDoS attacks are caused by industrial sabotage? Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to hacking—especially DDoS—law enforcers seldom find the perpetrators, because it is extremely difficult for anyone to trace the origins of DDoS attacks. The source is typically 1) a legitimate third-party server, running a service which has been leveraged by an attacker as part of a reflection/amplification attack, or 2) a direct flood attack from a single device, or 3) a botnet of many devices in which the IP source addresses are easily spoofed to ones that cannot be associated with the attacker.

Motivations and Means

Hacker motivations vary; some are political, others are financial. Certainly, if a business wanted to inflict financial or reputational harm upon a competitor, a DDoS attack would do the trick. After all, it is easy and relatively inexpensive for anyone to rent a botnet or DDoS-for-hire service to carry out a DDoS attack. Yes, it’s possible, but do victims have any evidence to back up their suspicions, or are they just paranoid about a rival business? Likewise, the threat of a disgruntled, malicious insider or former employee is a reasonable concern. But again, it is hard to trace the breadcrumbs.

Speculating about “who dunnit” is usually pointless; there’s little hope of hunting down the perpetrator(s), and it costs time and money to conduct an investigation. Even if the perps are brought to justice, they’ve already damaged your business. The moral of the story is that it’s useless to close the proverbial stable door after the horse has left; the best approach is to prevent an attack by having DDoS protection in place.

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