Internet time servers exploited for 'unprecedented' Q1 DDoS surge

An "unprecedented spike" in the size of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Australian organisations was due to a surge in Network Time Protocol (NTP) reflection and amplification attacks, Arbor Networks has claimed on the release of new figures showing the first quarter's largest DDoS attack peaked at 325 gigabytes per second.

The NTP protocol had become a favoured protocol for creating DDoS storms due to an amplification ratio of nearly 1000:1 and a connectionless design that made it particularly susceptible to large-scale spoofing of source IP addresses, Arbor said.

That design had led to average NTP traffic surging from 1.29GB/sec in November 2013 to 351.64GB/sec this February. More telling, while NTP was used in only 14 percent of all DDoS events, it was far more favoured in high-volume attacks: 56 percent of DDoS events over 10GB/sec relied on NTP, as did 84.7 percent of DDoSes over 100GB/sec.

The first quarter of this year saw 72 attacks over 100GB/sec, as well as 1.5 times as many attacks over 20GB/sec as were recorded during the whole of 2013.

Australia, along with the United States and France, were the most frequently targeted countries overall.

"The spike in the size and frequency of large attacks so far in 2014 has been unprecedented," said Arbor Networks director of solutions architects Darren Anstee. "These attacks have become so large, they pose a very serious threat to Internet infrastructure, from the ISP to the enterprise."

The DDoS data comes from ATLAS, a large-scale collaboration effort that has been spearheaded by Arbor Networks and aggregates data on global traffic and DDoS events from nearly 300 service providers.

The venture collects 80TB of traffic per second and feeds the company's Digital Attack Map, which provides a real-time view of unusual Internet traffic including the 12Gbps Australian DDoS that was one of 2013's largest events.

Tags attacksarbor networksddosNTPdistributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks

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