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Welcome to our DDoS Threat Report for the third quarter of 2022. This report includes insights and trends about the DDoS threat landscape - as observed across Cloudflare’s global network.
Multi-terabit strong DDoS attacks have become increasingly frequent. In Q3, Cloudflare automatically detected and mitigated multiple attacks that exceeded 1 Tbps. The largest attack was a 2.5 Tbps DDoS attack launched by a Mirai botnet variant, aimed at the Minecraft server, Wynncraft. This is the largest attack we’ve ever seen from the bitrate perspective.
It was a multi-vector attack consisting of UDP and TCP floods. However, Wynncraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game Minecraft server where hundreds and thousands of users can play on the same server, didn’t even notice the attack, since Cloudflare filtered it out for them.
General DDoS attack trends
Application-layer DDoS attacks
Overall this quarter, we've seen:
- An increase in DDoS attacks compared to last year.
- Longer-lasting volumetric attacks, a spike in attacks generated by the Mirai botnet and its variants.
- Surges in attacks targeting Taiwan and Japan.
Network-layer DDoS attacks
- HTTP DDoS attacks increased by 111% YoY, but decreased by 10% QoQ.
- HTTP DDoS attacks targeting Taiwan increased by 200% QoQ; attacks targeting Japan increased by 105% QoQ.
- Reports of Ransom DDoS attacks increased by 67% YoY and 15% QoQ.
- L3/4 DDoS attacks increased by 97% YoY and 24% QoQ.
- L3/4 DDoS attacks by Mirai botnets increased by 405% QoQ.
- The Gaming / Gambling industry was the most targeted by L3/4 DDoS attacks including a massive 2.5 Tbps DDoS attack.
This report is based on DDoS attacks that were automatically detected and mitigated by Cloudflare's DDoS Protection systems. To learn more about how it works, check out this deep-dive blog post.
Ransom DDoS attacks are attacks where the attacker demands a ransom payment, usually in the form of Bitcoin, to stop/avoid the attack. In Q3, 15% of Cloudflare customers that responded to our survey reported being targeted by HTTP DDoS attacks accompanied by a threat or a ransom note. This represents a 15% increase QoQ and 67% increase YoY of reported ransom DDoS attacks.
Diving into Q3, we can see that since June 2022, there was a steady decline in reports of ransom attacks. However, in September, the reports of ransom attacks spiked again. In the month of September, almost one out of every four respondents reported receiving a ransom DDoS attack or threat — the highest month in 2022 so far.
How we calculate Ransom DDoS attack trends
Our systems constantly analyze traffic and automatically apply mitigation when DDoS attacks are detected. Each DDoS'd customer is prompted with an automated survey to help us better understand the nature of the attack and the success of the mitigation. For over two years, Cloudflare has been surveying attacked customers. One of the questions in the survey asks the respondents if they received a threat or a ransom note demanding payment in exchange to stop the DDoS attack. Over the past year, on average, we collected 174 responses per quarter. The responses of this survey are used to calculate the percentage of Ransom DDoS attacks.
Application-layer DDoS attacks
Application-layer DDoS attacks, specifically HTTP DDoS attacks, are attacks that usually aim to disrupt a web server by making it unable to process legitimate user requests. If a server is bombarded with more requests than it can process, the server will drop legitimate requests and - in some cases - crash, resulting in degraded performance or an outage for legitimate users.
Application-layer DDoS attack trends
When we look at the graph below, we can see a clear trend of approximately 10% decrease in attacks each quarter since 2022 Q1. However, despite the downward trend, when comparing Q3 of 2022 to Q3 of 2021, we can see that HTTP DDoS attacks still increased by 111% YoY.
When we dive into the months of the quarter, attacks in September and August were fairly evenly distributed; 36% and 35% respectively. In July, the amount of attacks was the lowest for the quarter (29%).
Application-layer DDoS attacks by industry
By bucketing the attacks by our customers’ industry of operation, we can see that HTTP applications operated by Internet companies were the most targeted in Q3. Attacks on the Internet industry increased by 131% QoQ and 300% YoY.
The second most attacked industry was the Telecommunications industry with an increase of 93% QoQ and 2,317% (!) YoY. In third place was the Gaming / Gambling industry with a more conservative increase of 17% QoQ and 36% YoY.
Application-layer DDoS attacks by target country
Bucketing attacks by our customers’ billing address gives us an understanding of which countries are more attacked. HTTP applications operated by US companies were the most targeted in Q3. US-based websites saw an increase of 60% QoQ and 105% YoY in attacks targeting them. After the US, was China with a 332% increase QoQ and an 800% increase YoY.
Looking at Ukraine, we can see that attacks targeting Ukrainian websites increased by 67% QoQ but decreased by 50% YoY. Furthermore, attacks targeting Russian websites increased by 31% QoQ and 2,400% (!) YoY.
In East Asia, we can see that attacks targeting Taiwanese companies increased by 200% QoQ and 60% YoY, and attacks targeting Japanese companies increased by 105% QoQ.
When we zoom in on specific countries, we can identify the below trends that may reveal interesting insights regarding the war in Ukraine and geopolitical events in east Asia:
In Ukraine, we see a surprising change in the attacked industries. Over the past two quarters, Broadcasting, Online Media and Publishing companies were targeted the most in what appeared to be an attempt to silence information and make it unavailable to civilians. However this quarter, those industries dropped out of the top 10 list. Instead, the Marketing & Advertising industry took the lead (40%), followed by Education companies (20%), and Government Administration (8%).
In Russia, attacks on the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) industry continue to persist (25%). Be that as it may, attacks on the BFSI sector still decreased by 44% QoQ. In second place is the Events Services industry (20%), followed by Cryptocurrency (16%), Broadcast Media (13%), and Retail (11%). A significant portion of the attack traffic came from Germany-based IP addresses, and the rest were globally distributed.
In Taiwan, the two most attacked industries were Online Media (50%) and Internet (23%). Attacks to those industries were globally distributed indicating the usage of botnets.
In Japan, the most attacked industry was Internet/Media & Internet (52%), Business Services (12%), and Government - National (11%).
Application-layer DDoS attack traffic by source country
Before digging into specific source country metrics, it is important to note that while country of origin is interesting, it is not necessarily indicative of where the attacker is located. Oftentimes with DDoS attacks, they are launched remotely, and attackers will go to great lengths to hide their actual location in an attempt to avoid being caught. If anything, it is indicative of where botnet nodes are located. With that being said, by mapping the attacking IP address to their location, we can understand where attack traffic is coming from.
After two consecutive quarters, China replaced the US as the main source of HTTP DDoS attack traffic. In Q3, China was the largest source of HTTP DDoS attack traffic. Attack traffic from China-registered IP addresses increased by 29% YoY and 19% QoQ. Following China was India as the second-largest source of HTTP DDoS attack traffic — an increase of 61% YoY. After India, the main sources were the US and Brazil.
Looking at Ukraine, we can see that this quarter there was a drop in attack traffic originating from Ukrainian and Russian IP addresses — a decrease of 29% and 11% QoQ, respectively. However, YoY, attack traffic from within those countries still increased by 47% and 18%, respectively.
Another interesting data point is that attack traffic originating from Japanese IP addresses increased by 130% YoY.
Network-layer DDoS attacks
While application-layer attacks target the application (Layer 7 of the OSI model) running the service that end users are trying to access (HTTP/S in our case), network-layer attacks aim to overwhelm network infrastructure (such as in-line routers and servers) and the Internet link itself.
Network-layer DDoS attack trends
In Q3, we saw a large surge in L3/4 DDoS attacks — an increase of 97% YoY and a 24% QoQ. Furthermore, when we look at the graph we can see a clear trend, over the past three quarters, of an increase in attacks.
Drilling down into the quarter, it's apparent that the attacks were, for the most part, evenly distributed throughout the quarter — with a slightly larger share for July.
Network-layer DDoS attacks by Industry
The Gaming / Gambling industry was hit by the most L3/4 DDoS attacks in Q3. Almost one out of every five bytes Cloudflare ingested towards Gaming / Gambling networks was part of a DDoS attack. This represents a whopping 381% increase QoQ.
The second most targeted industry was Telecommunications — almost 6% of bytes towards Telecommunications networks were part of DDoS attacks. This represents a 58% drop from the previous quarter where Telecommunications was the top most attacked industry by L3/4 DDoS attacks.
Following were the Information Technology and Services industry along with the Software industry. Both saw significant growth in attacks — 89% and 150% QoQ, respectively.
Network-layer DDoS attacks by target country
In Q3, Singapore-based companies saw the most L3/4 DDoS attacks — over 15% of all bytes to their networks were associated with a DDoS attack. This represents a dramatic 1,175% increase QoQ.
The US comes in second after a 45% decrease QoQ in attack traffic targeting US networks. In third, China, with a 62% QoQ increase. Attacks on Taiwan companies also increased by 200% QoQ.
Network-layer DDoS attacks by ingress country
In Q3, Cloudflare’s data centers in Azerbaijan saw the largest percentage of attack traffic. More than a third of all packets ingested there were part of a L3/4 DDoS attack. This represents a 44% increase QoQ and a huge 59-fold increase YoY.
Similarly, our data centers in Tunisia saw a dramatic increase in attack packets - 173x the amount in the previous year. Zimbabwe and Germany also saw significant increases in attacks.
Zooming into East Asia, we can see that our data centers in Taiwan saw an increase of attacks — 207% QoQ and 1,989% YoY. We saw similar numbers in Japan where attacks increased by 278% QoQ and 1,921% YoY.
Looking at Ukraine, we actually see a dip in the amount of attack packets we observed in our Ukraine-based and Russia-based data centers — 49% and 16% QoQ, respectively.
Attack vectors & Emerging threats
An attack vector is the method used to launch the attack or the method of attempting to achieve denial-of-service. With a combined share of 71%, SYN floods and DNS attacks remain the most popular DDoS attack vectors in Q3.
Last quarter, we saw a resurgence of attacks abusing the CHARGEN protocol, the Ubiquity Discovery Protocol, and Memcached reflection attacks. While the growth in Memcached DDoS attacks also slightly grew (48%), this quarter, there was a more dramatic increase in attacks abusing the BitTorrent protocol (1,221%), as well as attacks launched by the Mirai botnet and its variants.
BitTorrent DDoS attacks increased by 1,221% QoQ
The BitTorrent protocol is a communication protocol that’s used for peer to peer file sharing. To help the BitTorrent clients find and download the files in an efficient manner, BitTorrent clients may use BitTorrent Trackers or Distributed Hash Tables (DHT) to identify the peers that are seeding the desired file. This concept can be abused to launch DDoS attacks. A malicious actor can spoof the victim’s IP address as a seeder IP address within Trackers and DHT systems. Then clients would request the files from those IPs. Given a sufficient number of clients requesting the file, it can flood the victim with more traffic than it can handle.
Mirai DDoS attacks increased by 405% QoQ
Mirai is malware that infects smart devices that run on ARC processors, turning them into a network of bots that can be used to launch DDoS attacks. This processor runs a stripped-down version of the Linux operating system. If the default username-and-password combo is not changed, Mirai is able to log in to the device, infect it, and take over. The botnet operator can instruct the botnet to launch a flood of UDP packets at the victim’s IP address to bombard them.
Network-layer DDoS attacks by Attack Rates & Duration
While Terabit-strong attacks are becoming more frequent, they are still the outliers. The majority of attacks are tiny (in terms of Cloudflare scale). Over 95% of attacks peaked below 50,000 packets per second (pps) and over 97% below 500 Megabits per second (Mbps). We call this “cyber vandalism”.
What is cyber vandalism? As opposed to “classic” vandalism where the purpose is to cause deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private physical property — such as graffiti on the side of a building — in the cyberworld, cyber vandalism is the act of causing deliberate damage to Internet properties. Today the source codes for various botnets are available online and there are a number of free tools that can be used to launch a flood of packets. By directing those tools to Internet properties, any script-kid can use those tools to launch attacks against their school during exam season or any other website they desire to take down or disrupt. This is as opposed to organized crime, Advanced Persistent Threat actors, and state-level actors that can launch much larger and sophisticated attacks.
Similarly, most of the attacks are very short and end within 20 minutes (94%). This quarter we did see an increase of 9% in attacks of 1-3 hours, and a 3% increase in attacks over 3 hours — but those are still the outliers.
Even with the largest attacks, such as the 2.5 Tbps attack we mitigated earlier this quarter, and the 26M request per second attack we mitigated back in the summer, the peak of the attacks were short-lived. The entire 2.5 Tbps attack lasted about 2 minutes, and the peak of the 26M rps attack only 15 seconds. This emphasizes the need for automated, always-on solutions. Security teams can’t respond quick enough. By the time the security engineer looks at the PagerDuty notification on their phone, the attack has subsided.
Attacks may be initiated by humans, but they are executed by bots — and to play to win, you must fight bots with bots. Detection and mitigation must be automated as much as possible, because relying solely on humans puts defenders at a disadvantage. Cloudflare’s automated systems constantly detect and mitigate DDoS attacks for our customers so they don’t have to.
Over the years, it has become easier, cheaper, and more accessible for attackers and attackers-for-hire to launch DDoS attacks. But as easy as it has become for the attackers, we want to make sure that it is even easier - and free - for defenders of organizations of all sizes to protect themselves against DDoS attacks of all types. We've been providing unmetered and unlimited DDoS protection for free to all of our customers since 2017 — when we pioneered the concept. Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. A better Internet is one that is more secure, faster, and reliable for everyone - even in the face of DDoS attacks.