Hactivists lead cause of grief to network engineers

Hactivists lead cause of grief to network engineers

Arbor says majority of DDoS attacks are political; Symantec says they could be hiding more serious threats.

‘Hacktivists’ are shaking up IT workers around the world with the possibility of idealogically motivated distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on their network infrastructure.

The results of Arbor Networks’ 2011 Infrastructure Security Report, released earlier this month, found that 35 percent of the 114 ISPs and large enterprises surveyed believed they were attacked for political or ideological reasons.

Of the respondents, the majority of whom were network or security engineers, 91 percent witnessed at least one DDoS attack per month on their networks. An astounding 44 percent reported seeing ten or more attacks per month, up from 30 percent the previous year.

As well as the rise in the number of DDoS attacks, there was also a significant increase in their general strength, with 13 percent reporting attacks of 10 Gbps and over.

Roland Dobbins, APAC solutions architect at Arbor, told CIO that even companies with no outwardly contentious political or ideological views are susceptible to attacks from groups like Anonymous.

“It isn’t just government websites that get attacked. If you are in any way linked, or perceived to be linked to a point of view these groups oppose you run the risk of being directly or indirectly attacked,” says Dobbins.

Dobbins adds that 2011 marked the "democratisation" of DDoS attacks through the proliferation of DDoS tools and software which let people without network security knowledge participate in large scale attacks.

Another enterprise security company warns that political or ideological network attacks may be disguising more serious financial threats.

DDoS attacks could be used to distract network engineers, while malware is installed says Sean Kopelke, director of security and compliance at Symantec.

"Hacking went from being about making a lot of noise, to making money. Now hackers are making a lot of noise in order to deploy very sophisticated and hard to detect malware inside of the firewall," says Kopelke.

“In the long run these threats are potentially much more dangerous to organisations, as often they just don’t know they are there.”

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