Attacks designed to overwhelm servers with internet traffic — known as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — were less frequent this spring than last, according to Akamai’s second quarter report.
Akamai is a major seller of services to fight DDoS attacks. According to the company’s report, attacks declined by 18 percent between the beginning of April and end of June from the same period last year.
DDoS attacks use hacked computers and internet-connected devices to send abnormal levels of traffic to a target, forcing it to slow or crash.
A DDoS attack knocked out a critical internet switchboard known as Dyn, a domain name system provider, in October that rendered Twitter, Netflix and The New York Times unreachable. In May, the FCC reported a DDoS attack slammed its commenting system, though critics have questioned whether this was an attack or just a flood of commenters weighing in on the contentious issue of net neutrality.
The report notes that while attacks are down year over year, attacks jumped 28 percent from the first quarter. But, it cautions quarterly data may not be the best measure of trends.
It explains many attacks are tied to yearly events: “For most organizations, security events aren’t seasonal, they happen year round, without the ability to anticipate attacks. Unless you’re the security team for a merchant, in which case you need to plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, since they are likely to be the high water marks for attack traffic for the year.”
While attacks rose from the beginning of the year, attack severity declined. “[F]or the first time in many years” Akamai observed no attacks exceeding 100 gigabits per second. The report speculates one potential cause of lower severity attacks might be international success taking the networks of hijacked computers, known as botnets, offline.
Gaming companies were the victim in around 80 percent of attacks observed by Akamai in the second quarter, with one customer seeing than 550 attacks. At the USENIX conference this year, Akamai researchers, teaming with other industry players and academics, presented research that the Dyn attack was actually intended as an attack on one of Dyn’s clients — the gaming platform PlayStation.
According to that presentation, Dyn crashed as it handled requests headed to PlayStation.