A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack often involves multiple computer systems or bots flooding a target system with illegitimate traffic. The target server becomes overwhelmed and either stop functioning or malfunctions when legit traffic (i.e. visitors) comes in, resulting in disruption of core business operations.
In recent years, DDoS attacks have become a common occurrence and more lethal than you can imagine. Not keeping up with the constantly evolving DDoS landscape could leave your business vulnerable. In this blog, we explore ten DDoS attack trends you should watch out for in 2021.
1. Rise in Number, Scale, And Severity of the Impact of DDoS Attacks
Since 2019, DDoS attack occurrences have gone up by 20%, and their scale and severity has increased by almost 200%. Influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have moved their operations online. This has made the business landscape a very fertile ground for more intense, bigger, and DDoS attacks in greater numbers in 2020, than never seen before. Neustar reported that the number of DDoS attacks increased by two and half times between January and June of 2020 as compared to the same period last year. This increase in DDoS attack numbers was spread out across industries. The number of attacks with a bandwidth of 500 GB and higher grew by 275%, and the number of attacks with a bandwidth of about 5 GB grew by 200%.
2. More Sophisticated and Complex DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks have surged and become more complex in 2020, and this trend is set to continue up to 2021. For example, in early July, cybersecurity solution provider, Cloudflare witnessed one of the largest ever DDoS attacks on their network system. The attack was generated by a Mirai-based botnet named Moobot. At its peak, this attack had a bandwidth of 654 Mbps and was being sent from 18,705 unique IP addresses, which were suspected to be IoT devices infected with Moobot. This attack lasted for almost 10 days. Luckily, end-users were protected and didn’t suffer degradations or downtimes.
3. Increased IoT-related DDoS Attacks
In 2020, there are around 20.4 billion IoT enabled devices. This number is expected to increase in 2021, which creates a larger surface area for cyberattacks. Many of these smart devices lack any real security systems, yet they run on interconnected systems. This increases their vulnerability to attacks and leverage from malicious botnets. If solutions are not created soon enough, the scale of IoT DDoS attacks in 2021 is going to rise exponentially.
4. Increased Application Layer Attacks
Earlier DDoS attacks aimed at disrupting services using volumetric attacks on the network. Then, even a gigabit of illegitimate traffic could push a server’s infrastructure to its limit. This has changed since the increase in cloud-based services. Cybercriminals have now innovated new strategies that overwhelm cloud servers with illegitimate traffic. They are now focusing more on network-based attacks such as application-layer attacks which are turning out to be more effective. The reason why more vicious layer-7 attacks are more likely to occur is that they require less bandwidth to execute. Botnets targeting layer-7 are also able to easily disguise as valid traffic, making it difficult to detect and mitigate.A trend that is likely to continue in 2021 is highly skilled cybercriminals combining volumetric attacks and application-layer attacks. This technique masks the more focused and vicious layer-7 attacks which are the ones that wreak real havoc.
5. Increased Burst Attacks
Burst DDoS attacks are also known as hit-and-run DDoS attacks because they repeatedly and randomly disrupt for a few seconds. This means before a counter-strategy is made, the attack will have disappeared. These attacks also change in duration and frequency, making them very unpredictable. This means that cybersecurity professionals have to wait until the next wave of attacks for mitigation efforts and even then, they have to strive and catch the attack in action. Can we expect to see more burst attacks in 2021? We think so.
6. Instances of Politically Motivated DDoS Attacks Are Set to Increase
2020 was a US-election year. We have observed several politically motivated cyberattacks, and this is expected to grow in 2021. This is because DDoS attacks are being leveraged by political opponents against each other. Many of them are state-sponsored cyber warfare that is aimed at intercepting secret information and disrupting critical services. Numerous states such as Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have experienced technical outages aimed at hampering voter turnout and election integrity.DDoS attacks can also be used to launch disinformation campaigns by leveraging social network bots to spam websites and social media sites with wrong political information. DDoS attackers can also be used to steal campaign information and strategies and consequently manipulate the electorate with this stolen information.
7. 5G will fuel Botnet-driven DDoS attacks
The world is preparing to usher in new better bandwidth capabilities and faster speeds for mobile devices with the introduction of 5G networks. This means that cybercriminals are on standby to leverage the capabilities of 5G to mete out very serious attacks. Even a few devices with such high capabilities are capable of orchestrating very serious and destructive cyberattacks. We are therefore going to witness more DDoS attacks in 2021 that are 5G related.
8. Merging and Overlapping of DDoS Attacks with Previous Attacks
DDoS attackers have started using additional new tactics on top of existing attack strategies. This overlapping strategy is used to maximize the impact of the attack, and consequently, increase their chances of getting a higher ransom. It was easier for cybersecurity professionals to identify and mitigate single-strategy attacks. However, with merged DDoS attack strategies, it is a bit more difficult to resolve these attacks. In 2021, cybercriminals will be banking on the horde of variables, factors, and actors to merge attack strategies and create more vicious attacks.
9. Increased Exposed Servers
Enterprises are constantly trying to improve user experiences. One way that they have done this is by moving to User Datagram Protocols (UDPs). While this is helpful for user experience, the placing on online back-end web servers leaves an open backdoor for attackers. With exposed servers, hackers do not even have to try hard or write complex malicious code to gain entry. About 100,000 servers are currently exposed. If enterprises do not put up strategies to secure back-end servers, then 2021 is going to see a huge rise in easily and conveniently orchestrated DDoS attacks.
10. Increased Mobile-based DDoS attacks
Recent years have seen major growth in mobile technology systems. This growth has made mobile devices a good target for DDoS attackers, especially when targeting apps. Most mobile applications have poor security systems and can easily expose users to cybercriminals or create security loopholes in mobile devices. Mobile DDoS criminals can therefore use this to control peoples’ devices or steal user information or use someone’s device as a source of a DDoS attack. This is a trend to keep a keen eye on in 2021.
The volume, scale, complexity, severity, and sophistication of DDoS attacks have significantly increased in 2020, and this trend is bound to continue even in 2021. We highly encourage organizations to put up robust DDoS prevention and mitigation responses to protect their systems and servers. Intelligent DDoS protection solutions will come in handy to mitigate these increasing attacks.