Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks impacting availability have been rising. The attacks aren’t only affecting Russia and Ukraine either. Public and private organizations in multiple industries have been impacted, and several nations—including the U.S. and U.K.—have issued warnings about cyberthreats from Russia.
A recent report from the Uptime Institute notes some 60% of outages cost at least $100,000, and 15% cost at least $1 million. Falling victim to one of these attacks can significantly impact your bottom line.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at recent attacks attributed to Russia, how different DoS attacks work, and what you can do to help keep your site available.
Let’s start by looking at some of the significant availability threats and attacks that have occurred in recent months.
The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and National Cyber Security Centre indicated Russia was likely responsible for DDoS attacks against several Ukrainian banks before the invasion. The attacks occurred February 15 – 16, 2022, and the report suggests the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was involved.
While the details of the DDoS attacks are unclear, The Register confirmed the websites of PrivatBank and Oschadbank were knocked offline at the time. PrivatBank ATMs and online transactions were also affected.
Separate from attacks by Russia, there are many “hacktivists” launching attacks against Russia. An NBC News report indicated that DDoS attacks are the most visible way pro-Ukraine hackers are attempting to make an impact. One of the things making DDoS attacks so appealing to hacktivists is they’re relatively technically simple to execute and lead to immediate results.
Unfortunately, the Russia-Ukraine War isn’t the first instance of politically or militarily motivated DDoS attacks. As evidence of the evolving digital world, recent history has brought several other examples, including:
What’s the takeaway here? While it’s true organizations dealing with finance, government, and critical infrastructure directly related to the Russia-Ukraine War have an increased risk, they’re far from the only ones needing to be concerned.
In fact, The Hacker News reports education, tech, healthcare, and online gaming are all common targets. Additionally, you don’t have to be a large enterprise to be a target. Small and medium-sized enterprises are common targets of threat actors looking to compromise availability.
Now we know the what, let’s look into how different attacks against availability work. All these attacks against availability fall into the category of DoS attacks. However, a “DoS attack” can take several different forms. Threat actors use various techniques to implement DoS attacks.
Let’s cover the three main categories of DoS attacks and how they work.
Volume-based DoS attacks are classic DoS. They generate more load (requests) than a server can handle, and as the server tries to keep up with the malicious requests, its bandwidth is exhausted. As a result, legitimate users are unable to access the server.
Common examples of volume-based DoS attacks include:
Protocol attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the network and transport layers of the OSI model. Instead of compromising availability by exhausting bandwidth, protocol attacks exhaust processing capacity.
Synchronize (SYN) flood attacks are a great example of a protocol attack. In a SYN flood attack, the attacker sends many TCP SYN packets—these packets are the first step in the TCP handshake—with spoofed IP addresses. The server responds to the spoofed addresses with a SYN-ACK. Because the IP addresses were spoofed, the server never receives the acknowledge (ACK) response to the SYN-ACK. Eventually, if the server is left waiting for too many responses, it may crash or hang.
Layer 7 (also known as the application layer) attacks exploit application layer protocols like HTTP to force a server to exhaust its resources. Application layer attacks are particularly tricky to deal with for two reasons:
For example, an attacker may send HTTP GET or POST requests to the same API endpoints as legitimate users would. The attacker, however, sends requests at a much higher frequency or with specifically crafted headers and payloads.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can protect sites against availability threats from Russia and beyond. The following tools and techniques can help make your websites more resilient:
Additionally, it’s essential to remember the need for real-time monitoring. Proactive monitoring allows you to quickly detect and respond to anomalies, which can make a world of difference when mitigating the impact of an attack. Specifically, sites should implement the following:
DoS threats from Russia significantly affect website availability and performance across the internet. The landscape is constantly changing, with attacks and countermeasures forming a constant cat-and-mouse game. With the Scopify State of the Internet live map, you can stay up to date with a real-time view of website outages around the world.
If you’re interested in going beyond a global view and monitoring your own site’s availability, sign up for a 30-day free trial of Scopify today!
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