April 3, 2017 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

There’s big money in bringing down websites and internet services. According to CSO Online, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks can now net fraudsters revenue that any private company would envy: Done right, malicious actors can reach 95 percent profit margins. Even better for cybercriminals? A DDoS attack typically costs around $25 per hour (or less), making this a lucrative route for larceny. More worrisome? Revenues are on the rise for the bad guys. Here’s why.

An Easy Point of Entry

DDoS threats have become clear and present threats for companies and institutions of all sizes, with 34 percent of companies hit by a DDoS attack in 2016. Threatpost reported, for example, a new variant of the Mirai botnet went after a U.S. college last month in a 54-hour-long attack that leveraged almost 10,000 connected devices to flood targets with application-layer HTTP traffic.

Likewise, The Verge reported that Apple released an iOS update to fix a 911 DDoS effort introduced by an 18-year-old coder back in October 2016. Using a Javascript exploit, the coder created a link that caused phones to continuously dial 911. Once published online, call centers were flooded with unintended connections and were quickly overwhelmed.

DDoS attacks continue to grow in popularity because in many cases hackers don’t even have to stage an attack to get paid; they simply send an email threatening companies with the loss of websites or services along with a ransom note. Often, businesses will shell out cash to avoid potential disaster.

Even if hackers roll out a full-on ransomware DDoS attack, Infosecurity Magazine explained they’re paying just $5 or $6 for 300 seconds of 125 Gbps bandwidth botnets, giving them $18 per hour in profit as companies lose $25 every hour. The margin of $7 goes toward cloud hosting and buys 1,000 rented servers per hour.

DDoS Attack Rates Increase

Companies should expect DDoS attacks to ramp up as both the cost of labor and underpinning infrastructure falls. There’s also the efficacy of such attacks to consider: Unlike phishing emails or malicious websites, which organizations can train employees to avoid, the need for customers and employees to leverage web-based services means that a fundamental characteristic — response to incoming traffic — is also organizations’ biggest weakness. Any company, of any size, running any kind of website or internet-accessible service is vulnerable to DDoS.

And here’s the thing: Profits are on the rise, pushing this 95 percent profit margin even higher. Consider the Mirai botnet mentioned above — instead of relying on rented cloud servers, the DDoS attack leveraged connected devices, allowing attackers to virtually eliminate the middleman of compute power rentals.

As more and more IoT devices flood the market — but remain improperly secured — the number of potential DDoS bots increases exponentially while total hacker costs go down. All inexperienced cybercriminals will need is access to a botnet framework, and they can push for nearly 100 percent profit at the expense of both IoT device owners and DDoS victims.

The takeaway here? DDoS is profitable, easy to implement and virtually impossible to stop. As a result, hackers are making more than ever while doing less work, and companies are quick to pay up in hopes of avoiding a ransomware rollout. Exploding IoT markets, meanwhile, are poised to make a bad situation worse. Until device security matches emerging threat levels, attackers are on track for record-breaking revenue.

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