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 DDoS Attack: Smoke Screen or Smoke Signal? 

  • April 2016
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 12 pages

Summary

Table of Contents

Introduction

The nature of risk is uncertainty. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne declares “he [Superman] has the power to wipe out the entire human race. If we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy then we have to take it as an absolute certainty.” The fictional Mr. Wayne is referring to the concept that even an improbable threat can be an unacceptable risk if the potential consequences are sufficiently dire. In the world of advanced cyber threats, a security breach can have severe consequences. Sony Entertainment experienced a publicly embarrassing, broad, and long running disruption of business operations. The Target breach cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and fines.

Ashley Madison’s reputation for discretion was forever tarnished after leaking customer data. Tellingly, key executives at each of these organizations resigned in the wake of each of these major security breaches. Companies of all sizes are investigating ways to minimize risk and avoid disastrous data breaches. Risk is a factor of two key vectors: the probability of an attack and the impact of an attack. Nowhere is risk more difficult to correctly ascertain than in the area of distributed denial-ofservice (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks can be initiated anywhere, at any time, by anyone, thus making the “likelihood of an attack” very difficult to determine. As a result, DDoS risk is greatly underestimated. DDoS attacks will only become more problematic due to increasing instances of DDoS attacks used as “smoke screen attacks.”

A smoke screen attack refers to the use of a DDoS attack as a distraction, in an attempt to conceal more surgical intrusion tactics. The “smoke” created includes holding IT staff’s time and attention, disrupting or disabling the sensors and tools used to detect or prevent an intrusion, and burying the post-attack forensic tools in a sea of network activity logs, falsified data, and misinformation. Research from Arbor Networks showed that “ % of DDoS attacks were a smoke screen to conceal a compromise or data exfiltration.”2 Where there is smoke, there is fire. Businesses must recognize DDoS attacks for the data security threat that they are, instead of the simple nuisances of earlier years. In this insight, Stratecast |Frost & Sullivan details the growing threat from smoke screen DDoS attacks, and offers business leaders recommendations for properly understanding DDoS risk in a cyber security context.

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