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New DDoS Attack Method Leverages UPnP

A new DDoS attack leverages unprotected UPnP routers to make attacks harder to stop.

A new DDoS technique is adding a new twist to this common threat and upping the chance that an attack will have an impact on business operations. The new attack leverages a known vulnerability in Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to get around many of the current defense techniques and swamp a target's network and servers.

The basis of the attack is a DNS amplification technique that bounces a DNS query response to the victim based on a spoofed requester address. In this new DDoS approach, though - detailed by researchers at Imperva - the attack mechanism is a UPnP router that is happy to forward requests from one external source to another (in violation of UPnP behavior rules). Using the UPnP router returns the data on an unexpected UDP port from a spoofed IP address, making it more difficult to take simple action to shut down the traffic flood.

In the original attack and the new proof of concept, a DNS amplification was used, but the researchers note that there's no technical reason that a similar approach couldn't be used in SSDP, DNS, and NTP attacks.

When both source address and port are obfuscated, many current DDoS remediation techniques become ineffective. While deep packet inspection will work against the attack, it's a resource-intensive method that can be both costly and limited. The researchers say that the most effective way to stop this attack method is for organizations to lock down their UPnP routers, taking a weapon out of the hands of attackers.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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