NETSCOUT has revealed its top security trends to watch out for in 2023. Based on recent data, the company has predicted that geopolitical unrest, the evolution of ransomware, and the growing popularity of Adaptive DDoS, Direct-Path DDoS, and Outbound and Cross-bound DDoS attacks will have a significant impact on the security industry in 2023.
Emad Fahmy, Systems Engineering Manager Middle East at NETSCOUT, explained, “In the world of cybercrime, innovation is a constant. By constantly innovating and adapting, attackers are designing new, more effective attack vectors or doubling down on existing effective methodologies. Although the future is always difficult to predict, one thing is certain, cyber-attacks will not subside. Moreover, when it comes to cyber-attacks, no business sector is off-limits. Cybercriminals target regional businesses of all sizes and in all sectors, whether public or private.”
Although distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have steadily increased over the past 20 years, recent data firmly establishes the reality that network operators need to understand, prepare for, and expect attacks related to politics, religion, and ideology. Nation-state actors often directly target internet infrastructure to take out critical communications, e-commerce, and other vital infrastructure dependent on internet connectivity. This, of course, means targeting internet service provider (ISP) networks to limit internet connectivity.
Further, nation-states typically possess vastly greater resources at their disposal than other malicious actors. Every year, they create new DDoS attack vectors, proving that they are constantly innovating and exploring new, more potent attack methods. As DDoS defenses become more precise and effective, attackers continue to develop new DDoS attack vectors and methodologies to circumvent these defenses. These advanced techniques invariably find their way into the hands of criminal gangs and even individual hackers, who turn them against any entity from whom they can profit.
Ransomware attacks have posed a significant threat to businesses and individuals in recent years and will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated in 2023. One trend that will continue to evolve is the use of ransomware in combination with other attacks, such as supply chain attacks. It is also likely that malicious actors will continue to target specific industries or types of organizations with ransomware attacks, specifically to maximize their profits. For example, hospitals and other healthcare organizations have been particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks in the past because, with lives at stake, they may be more willing to pay a ransom to regain access to critical systems and data.
Another ransomware trend that will continue in 2023 is the use of triple extortion attacks. These campaigns begin by infiltrating a network and stealing valuable assets, such as trade secrets, source codes, credit cards, authentication credentials, and other personally identifiable information (PII). In phase two, ransomware is planted to encrypt valuable data or even entire storage systems. At this point, cybercriminals will demand a ransom in exchange for decryption keys. If the victim refuses to pay the ransom, perhaps because they could simply restore good backups, the threat actors then threaten to release sensitive data publicly if the ransom is not met.
This form of attack has been around for several years and can add additional pressure on the victim because the potential repercussions of the data being released to the public can be severe. While the first two actions can be invisible to the public, the third phase cannot escape publicity. Finally, a DDoS attack or even the threat of such turns the pressure up to the max. If the ransom is not paid, DDoS can take down an organization’s internet presence, thus exposing the entirety of the security threat and failure to protect valuable assets.
In an adaptive DDoS attack, adversaries conduct extensive pre-attack reconnaissance to identify specific elements of the service delivery chain to target. They are increasingly employing botnet nodes and reflectors/amplifiers that are closer to the target, a trend recently observed in botnet attacks on Ukraine. This minimizes the number of boundaries that DDoS attack traffic must traverse, often resulting in fewer opportunities to detect and mitigate the attack. The combination of increased available bandwidth and throughput increased populations of abusable devices, and adaptive DDoS attack techniques magnify the threat to network operators. As such, network operators should move from a default posture of DDoS mitigation to a new posture of DDoS suppression.
Direct-Path DDoS Attacks
Direct flooding and application-layer DDoS attacks are becoming more popular as anti-spoofing efforts increase globally, making it more difficult for spoofed packets to travel across the internet. Old techniques have become popular again as this methodology returns from the past, back before reflection/amplification attacks dominated the landscape. Enhanced for the modern network, these attacks now come from much more powerful sources, such as cloud-based infrastructure with massive computing and bandwidth resources. Further, adversaries are compromising hosts much closer to the target, thus avoiding many layers of transit, potential discovery, and mitigation. Because of this, organizations must beware of the enemy within.
Outbound and Cross-bound DDoS Attacks
Those are not the only threats coming from within – DDoS attack traffic is increasingly originating from within the network it is targeting, thus avoiding ingress and transit points. DDoS defenses traditionally have been focused on protecting internet properties and networks by implementing detection and mitigation technologies at points of convergence for inbound network traffic. This approach worked well to protect targeted organizations and networks from inbound DDoS attacks; however, outbound and cross-bound DDoS attacks can be just as devastating and disruptive as inbound attacks. Because of adversary innovation and adaption, defenders must change their way of thinking and, in turn, adapt to the current threat landscape.