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Botnets: DDoS and Beyond

June 20, 2019 — by Daniel Smith0

Traditionally, DDoS is an avenue of profit for botherders. But today’s botnets have evolved to include several attack vectors other than DDoS that are more profitable. And just as any business-oriented person would do, attackers follow the money.

As a result, botherders are targeting enterprise and network software, since residential devices have become over saturated. The days of simple credentials-based attacks are long behind us. Attackers are now looking for enterprise devices that will help expand their offerings and assists in developing additional avenues of profit.

A few years ago, when IoT botnets became all the rage, they were mainly targeting residential devices with simple credential attacks (something the DDoS industry does not prevent from happening; instead we take the position of mitigating attacks coming from infected residential devices).

[You may also like: IoT Botnets on the Rise]

From Personal to Enterprise

But now that attackers are targeting enterprise devices, the industry must reevaluate the growing threat behind today’s botnets.

We now have to focus on not only protecting the network from external attacks but also the devices and servers found in a typical enterprise network from being infected by botnet malware and leveraged to launch attacks.

In a blog posted on MIT’s Technology Review titled, Inside the business model for botnets, C.G.J. Putman and colleagues from the University of Twente in the Netherlands detail the economics of a botnet. The article sheds some light on the absence of DDoS attacks and the growth of other vectors of attack generated from a botnet.

In their report, the team states that DDoS attacks from a botnet with 30,000 infected devices could generate around $26,000 a month. While that might seem like a lot, it’s actually a drop in the bucket compared to other attack vectors that can be produced from a botnet.

For example, C.G.J. Putman and Associates reported that a spamming botnet with 10,000 infected devices can generate $300,000 a month. The most profitable? Click fraud, which can generate over $20 million per month in profit.

[You may also like: Ad Fraud 101: How Cybercriminals Profit from Clicks]

To put that in perspective, AppleJ4ck and P1st from Lizard Squad made close to $600,000 over 2 years’ operating a stresser service called vDoS.

So let me ask this: If you are a botherder risking your freedom for profit, are you going to construct a botnet strictly for DDoS attacks or will you construct a botnet with more architecturally diverse devices to support additional vectors of profit?

Exactly. Botherders will continue to maximize their efforts and profitability by targeting enterprise devices.

Read the “IoT Attack Handbook – A Field Guide to Understanding IoT Attacks from the Mirai Botnet and its Modern Variants” to learn more.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is an information security researcher for Radware’s Emergency Response Team. He focuses on security research and risk analysis for network and application based vulnerabilities. Daniel’s research focuses in on Denial-of-Service attacks and includes analysis of malware and botnets. As a white-hat hacker, his expertise in tools and techniques helps Radware develop signatures and mitigation attacks proactively for its customers.

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