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Cyberattacks continue to have a dramatic impact on private and public organisations and governments worldwide, according to a new report. The NETSCOUT bi-annual Threat Intelligence Report found that in the first half of 2021, cybercriminals launched approximately 5.4 million Distributed Denial of Services attacks, increasing 11% over 1H 2020 figures.

Additionally, data projections from NETSCOUT's Active Level Threat Analysis System Security Engineering and Response Team point to 2021 as another record-setting year, on track to surpass 11 million global DDoS attacks. ASERT expects this long tail of attacker innovation to last, fuelling a growing cybersecurity crisis that will continue to impact public and private organisations.

In the wake of Colonial Pipeline, JBS, Harris Federation, Australian broadcaster Channel Nine, CNA Financial, and several other high-profile attacks, the impact of DDoS and other cybersecurity attacks has been felt worldwide. As a result, leading governments are introducing new programs and policies to defend against attacks, and policing organisations are initiating unprecedented collaborative efforts to address the crisis.

During 1H 2021, cybercriminals weaponised and exploited seven newer reflection/amplification DDoS attack vectors, putting organisations at greater risk. This attack vector explosion spurred an increase in multivector DDoS attacks, with a record-setting 31 attack vectors deployed in a single attack against one organisation.

Other key findings from the NETSCOUT 1H 2021 Threat Intelligence Report include:

New adaptive DDoS attack techniques evade traditional defences. By customising their strategies, cybercriminals evolved their attack efforts to bypass cloud-based and on-premise static DDoS defences to target commercial banks and credit card processors. 

The connectivity supply chain increasingly under attack. Bad actors looking to cause the most collateral damage focused their efforts on vital internet components, including DNS servers, virtual private network (VPN) concentrators, services, and internet exchanges, disrupting essential gateways. 

Cybercriminals add DDoS to their toolkit to launch triple extortion campaigns. Ransomware has become big business, with extortionists adding DDoS to their attack regimen to ratchet up the pressure on victims and add stress to security teams. Triple extortion combines file encryption, data theft, and DDoS attacks, increasing the possibility that cyber criminals receive payment. 

The fastest DDoS attack recorded a 16.17% year-over-year increase. A Brazilian wireline broadband internet user launched the attack, which was likely related to online gaming. Using DNS reflection/amplification, TCP ACK flood, TCP RST flood, and TCP SYN/ACK reflection/amplification vectors, the sophisticated attack recorded 675 Mpps. 

The largest DDoS attack, 1.5 Tbps, represented a year-over-year increase of 169%. ASERT data identified this attack against a German ISP, deploying a DNS reflection/amplification vector. This attack represents a dramatic increase in size over any attacks recorded in 1H 2020. 

Botnets contribute to major DDoS activity. Tracked botnet clusters and high-density attack-source zones worldwide showcased how malicious adversaries abused these botnets to participate in more than 2.8 million DDoS attacks. In addition, well-known IoT botnets Gafgyt and Mirai continue to pose a severe threat, contributing to more than half of the total number of DDoS attacks.

"Cybercriminals are making front-page news launching an unprecedented number of DDoS attacks to take advantage of the pandemic's remote work shift by undermining vital components of the connectivity supply chain," - says Richard Hummel, threat intelligence lead, NETSCOUT. "Ransomware gangs added triple-extortion DDoS tactics to their repertoire. Simultaneously, the Fancy Lazarus DDoS extortion campaign kicked into high gear, threatening organisations in multiple industries with a focus on ISPs and specifically their authoritative DNS servers."