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Fending off DDoS attacks

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DDoS extortion attacks seem to be the new threats to look out for. According to GAD ELKIN of F5 Networks, a hybrid security approach is a company’s best chance of mitigating these attacks.

It is a testament to the sustained evolution of the cybersecurity landscape that we are still regularly seeing the emergence of new threats. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and ransomware are both well-established methods of cyber-attack, but we have recently seen a new tactic that combines elements of both: DDoS extortion attacks.

From what we’ve seen of the attacks so far, there is an almost professional approach to the whole process; initially, an email will arrive at the target explaining who the attackers are and even linking to some recent blogs written about them and their extortion tactics.

The email goes on to state that unless a fee is paid (usually around 40 Bitcoin but demands can go into the hundreds), a large-scale DDoS attack will be launched. Alternatively, some emails will only arrive after the attack has started, stating that the attack will only be stopped if the ransom is paid, or the severity will be reduced if a portion of the fee is paid.

We’ve monitored some attacks that start slowly and increase in scale – DD4BC, the company behind the extortion, claims it can launch attacks up to 400-500 Gbps.  Such attacks are very rarely that strong, but they are known to last up to 18 hours, however, which is definitely enough time to seriously impact a business.

At this point, it seems that no particular industry is being targeted specifically, but there is one general theme. The targets we’ve seen so far have been those that rely on online transactions to operate, such as financial institutions and currency exchanges.

One endgame to this that we’ve seen is that the extortion element could actually be a diversion tactic, meaning the customer concentrates on the sheer volumetric high-end type of attacks, when the offenders are actually targeting a local application with a different attack vector. This means that hackers could be conducting local application level attacks involving any form of penetration into the application itself. So often the target isn’t actually to bring down or disrupt a website or service but to gain access to an application in order to steal information, whether it’s credentials, financial information, personal data or something else.

It’s understandable that some targets may think the email is junk and ignore it, but that’s not necessarily the best course of action. Of course, that doesn’t mean that paying the ransom is advisable either. That leaves targets with the option of mitigating the attack, despite the emails specifically stating that attempting to mitigate the DDoS attack is pointless. Whilst the protagonists may claim that the attack is too big for even the best technology to cope with, that’s just not true.

Mitigation is possible through a combination of on-premises and cloud-based anti-DDoS technologies. A hybrid approach allows a company to mitigate DDoS attacks that are launched from outside the infrastructure and also cope with local-level attacks targeting the application layer.

A DDoS attack up to 500 Gbps in size can only be stopped with cloud-based technologies. The local network and application level attacks (which will happen if the DDoS is a diversion tactic) has to be stopped with on-premises technologies. So one or the other won’t do; a hybrid approach is the key to protecting your business from the ever-expanding arsenal of the cyber-criminal.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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