DDoS Attacks: Cost and Profitability

Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 05:03 PM gHale

When you talk about cybersecurity the idea of an Illegal business taking control of an organization and charging for protection or a ransom can come to mind. The problem is those illegal businesses have almost been a license to print money for years.

Looking at the cost benefit analysis of arranging a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack shows it can cost as little as $7 an hour, while the company targeted by the attack can end up losing thousands, if not millions of dollars in the process, according to new research from Kaspersky Lab.

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DDoS attacks can cost anywhere from $5 for a 300-second attack to $400 for a 24-hour attack. Based on the research, the average price for an attack is around $25 per hour. Kaspersky Lab’s researchers were also able to calculate an attack using a cloud-based botnet of 1,000 desktops is likely to cost the providers about $7 per hour. That means the cybercriminals organizing DDoS attacks are making a profit of around $18 per hour.

“There have been cases where criminal groups have threatened their victims with a DDoS attack unless the latter paid 5 bitcoins (more than $5,000),” Denis Makrushin, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post. “Often, a DDoS attack is used to distract IT staff while another cybercrime such as data theft or malware injection is carried out.”

The level of service involved when arranging a DDoS attack on the black market is not very different from that of a legal business. The only difference is there is no direct contact between the provider and the customer.

The “service providers” offer a convenient site where customers, after registering, can select the service they need, pay for it, and receive a report about the attacks. In some cases, there is even a customer loyalty program, with clients receiving rewards or bonus points for each attack.

Several factors can affect the cost of a DDoS attack to the customer, the researchers said in a blog post.

One factor is the type of attack and its source. For example, a botnet made up of popular IoT devices is cheaper than a botnet of servers. However, not all those providing attack services are ready to specify such details. Another factor is the duration of the attack (measured in seconds, hours and days), and the client’s location. DDoS attacks on English-language websites, for example, are usually more expensive than similar attacks on Russian-language sites.

Types of Attack
Another big factor affecting the cost is the type of victim. Attacks on government websites and resources protected by dedicated anti-DDoS solutions are much more expensive, as the former are high risk, while the latter are more difficult to attack, according to the research. For instance, on one DDoS-as-a-service website, the cost of an attack on an unprotected website ranges from $50 to $100, while an attack on a protected site costs $400 or more.

However, another scenario that can allow attackers make even more money is when the attackers demand a ransom from a target in return for not launching a DDoS attack, or to call off an ongoing attack. The ransom can be the bitcoin equivalent of thousands of dollars, meaning the profitability of a single attack can exceed 95 percent. In fact, those carrying out the blackmail do not even need to have the resources to launch an attack – sometimes the mere threat is enough.

“Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for new and cheaper ways of organizing botnets, as well as coming up with ever more ingenious attack scenarios that security solutions will have difficulty dealing with,” Makrushin said. “That’s why, as long as there are vulnerable servers, computers and IoT devices connected to the Internet, and many companies prefer not to invest in security against DDoS attacks, we can expect the profitability of DDoS attacks to continue growing, along with their complexity and frequency.”

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