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DDoS Amped Up: DNS, Memcached Attacks Rise

China and the US are the world's leading sources of distributed denial-of-service botnet attacks.

Record-breaking distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are on a tear this year, and new data shows that DNS amplification attacks have jumped 700% worldwide since 2016.

In the first quarter of 2018, some 55 DNS amplification attacks employed Memcached servers, according to Nexusguard's Q1 data. This year Memcached servers became the new darling of botnet operators looking for a way to jack up their DDoS attacks. Memcached is an open source software program used to increase server performance; designed for internal networks, it caches data in system memory.

But many organizations leave their Memcached servers with public Internet exposure; DDoS attackers are snapping them up for their dirty work because they are so powerful and provide volumetric DDoS traffic via even low bandwidth connections. Memcached can generate amplified DDoS attacks by a factor of 51,000 times other DNS amp attacks, according to Nexusguard.

Earlier this year Githu suffered a Memcached-born DDoS attack that hit 1.35TB. But that record was broken a week later by a 1.7TB DDoS that used Memcached servers against an undisclosed US service provider.
 
Juniman Kasman, CTO of Nexusguard, says amplification-style DDoS attacks are here to stay. "Cyberattackers continue to seek new vulnerabilities to pursue more firepower, launching more amplification attacks through unguarded Memcached servers and poorly configured DNSSEC-enabled DNS servers the past two quarters, and we expect this trend to continue," he said in a statement.

By far, DNS amplification was the top DDoS attack in Q1, with 4,791 attacks, followed by UDP (1,806 attacks) and ICMP (1,608 attacks).

Overall, multivector DDoS attacks that combine DNS, network time protocol (NTP), universal datagram protocol (UDP), and other protocols to amplify the attack are the most common. These attacks accounted for more than half of all DDoS botnets in the first quarter, according to the report.

China was the No. 1 source of DDoS attacks, with 15.2%, followed by the US, with 14.2%.