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A spike in the number of bitcoin-related sites targeted by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks coincided with a spike in the value of the cryptocurrency of $4,672 in the third quarter, according to Imperva’s latest global DDoS report.
The report is based on data from 3,920 network layer and 1,755 application layer DDoS attacks on websites using Imperva Incapsula services between 1 July and 30 September 2017.
The data shows that 73.9% of all bitcoin exchanges and related sites on the Imperva Incapsula service were attacked during the quarter, ahead of the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise to more than $11,600 in the first week of December.
As a result of the third-quarter spike, the relatively small and young bitcoin industry made it into the top 10 most attacked industries during the three-month period, taking eighth spot above the transport and telecoms sectors.
The most-attacked sector was gambling (34.5%), followed by gaming (14.4%) and internet services (10.8%).
Igal Zeifman, director at Imperva Incapsula, said the large number of attacks on bitcoin exchange sites is a clear example of DDoS attackers following the money.
“As a rule, extortionists and other cyber criminals are commonly drawn to successful online industries, especially emerging ones that are less likely to be well-protected,” he said.
“Specifically for bitcoin, the DDoS attacks we mitigated could also have been attempts to manipulate the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, something we know offenders have tried in the past.”
According to the report, organisations targeted by DDoS campaigns in the third quarter spent an average of 12 hours under attack, half of network layer targets were hit at least twice, and almost 30% were attacked more than 10 times.
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Nearly one-third of DDoS targets in the third quarter were attacked 10 or more times, with an interval of at least an hour between assaults.
Hong Kong topped Imperva’s list of the most targeted countries for network layer assaults during the quarter, mainly because of a persistent attack on a local hosting service that was hit hundreds of times in the quarter.
The largest application layer assault targeted a financial services company headquartered in Europe, which was hit multiple times with attacks above 100,000 requests per second.
The quarter also saw high packet rate attacks, in which the packet forwarding rate escalates above 50 million packets per second (Mpps), becomes more common, with 5% of all network layer assaults above 50 Mpps, and the largest attack peaking at 238 Mpps.
This is a cause for concern, the report said, because many mitigation systems are ill-equipped to process packets at such a high rate.
In November 2017, Harshil Parikh, director of security at software-as-a-service platform firm Medallia, told the IsacaCSX Europe 2017 conference in London that any business dependent on the internet should use tried and tested ways of detecting and mitigating DDoS.
He said it is important that such organisations take time and effort to build their DDoS defence capabilities because DDoS attacks are fairly easy and cheap for attackers to carry out.
“With the advent of botnet-based DDoS attack services that will be effective against most companies, anyone can target an organisation for just a few bitcoins,” said Parikh.