Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

12/5/2017
01:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Bitcoin Sites Become Hot Targets for DDoS Attacks

The Bitcoin industry is now one of the top 10 most-targeted industries for DDoS campaigns. Price manipulation could be one goal, Imperva says.

The massive surge in Bitcoin prices in recent months suddenly has made online cryptocurrency exchanges and services popular targets for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

This Monday, Bitfinex, one of the largest US dollar Bitcoin exchanges in the world, said it was the victim of a DDoS attack that knocked it offline for a short period of time. The company reported a similar incident just a few days earlier, and at least one other incident in June affected withdrawals and deposits of the then newly launched IOTA cryptocurrency.

In a report released Tuesday, security vendor Imperva said that nearly three in four of the 27 enterprise Bitcoin sites that are using the company's services were hit with DDoS attacks in the last quarter. From being hardly a blip on the radar of most cybercriminals earlier this year, the Bitcoin industry emerged as one of the top 10 most-targeted industries for denial-of-service campaigns in the third quarter of 2017. 

Online gambling and gaming sites continued to be the most heavily targeted, as usual, and accounted for 34.5% and 14.4% of all DDoS attacks last quarter, respectively. Internet service providers, financial companies, the retail sector, and software vendors also were seriously affected by DDoS attacks, in keeping with previous trends, Imperva's report said. But with 3.6% of all DDoS attacks aimed against it last quarter, the Bitcoin sector suddenly found itself thrust into the list of most-attacked industries for the first time, says Igal Zeifman, director and security evangelist at Imperva.

The attacks are a textbook example of cybercrooks following the money, Zeifman says. With Bitcoin trading at near-record highs, attackers may be attempting to shake down sites dealing with the cryptocurrency by threatening to disrupt services or to take them offline totally via DDoS attacks. It is also conceivable that cybercriminals and their hired guns are trying to manipulate Bitcoin prices through such disruption, Ziefman says.

In recent months, it has taken little to cause big fluctuations in Bitcoin pricing. In September, for instance, Bitcoin prices fell by as much as 24% in a little over a week after JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon called Bitcoin a fraud.

Financially motivated entities have also taken advantage of the unregulated nature of the Bitcoin ecosystem to drive sudden changes in Bitcoin prices by showing intent to buy or sell very large volumes and then canceling the transaction before it is executed. Given the relative ease with which some have manipulated Bitcoin prices, it is possible that cybercriminals are trying to trigger and profit from price fluctuations via outages at big exchanges.

"I believe that the reported sharp increase in DDoS attacks on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency sites during the last quarter is an attempt at manipulation of cryptocurrency prices, rather than an attempt at extortion," says Martin McKeay, global security advocate at Akamai, which released its own DDoS quarterly update last week.

"There is much more money to be made in casting the stability of a cryptocurrency site and affecting a change in cryptocurrency prices than there is to be made in a simple extortion scam," he says. If attackers can predict or control the timing of a surge or a drop in prices, they can make significantly more money than they could get from a single company in a ransom, he says.

Another option is that the attacks could be directed by a competing type of cryptocurrency network or by a competing system, McKeay says. "When users find themselves unable to quickly and reliably access their currency, it is not unusual for them to switch to a more reliable service." Small organizations in other sectors have shown a tendency to fund DDoS attacks on a competitor to slow them down, he says. "We may be seeing a similar tactic playing out with cryptocurrencies."

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of High-Tech Bridge, says that while a single DDoS attack is unlikely to produce tangible results for cybercriminals, a well-planned one could create damage. For example, if a major proponent or Bitcoin trade platform were suddenly to go offline accompanied with fake news about the government seizing its servers, a large-scale panic could ensue and undermine Bitcoin exchange rates, Kolochenko says.

But such attacks would require rigorous preparation and significant resources for execution. "If a dozen Bitcoin exchanges simultaneously go offline at a time of a major negative announcement concerning Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in general, and sellers [aren't] able to sell their Bitcoins, a huge depreciation [could happen]," Kolochenko says.

Related Content:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
7 Tips for Infosec Pros Considering A Lateral Career Move
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2020
For Mismanaged SOCs, The Price Is Not Right
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
IT 2020: A Look Ahead
Are you ready for the critical changes that will occur in 2020? We've compiled editor insights from the best of our network (Dark Reading, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, ITPro Today and Network Computing) to deliver to you a look at the trends, technologies, and threats that are emerging in the coming year. Download it today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-8003
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-27
A double-free vulnerability in vrend_renderer.c in virglrenderer through 0.8.1 allows attackers to cause a denial of service by triggering texture allocation failure, because vrend_renderer_resource_allocated_texture is not an appropriate place for a free.
CVE-2019-20427
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-27
In the Lustre file system before 2.12.3, the ptlrpc module has a buffer overflow and panic, and possibly remote code execution, due to the lack of validation for specific fields of packets sent by a client. Interaction between req_capsule_get_size and tgt_brw_write leads to a tgt_shortio2pages integ...
CVE-2019-20428
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-27
In the Lustre file system before 2.12.3, the ptlrpc module has an out-of-bounds read and panic due to the lack of validation for specific fields of packets sent by a client. The ldl_request_cancel function mishandles a large lock_count parameter.
CVE-2019-20429
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-27
In the Lustre file system before 2.12.3, the ptlrpc module has an out-of-bounds read and panic (via a modified lm_bufcount field) due to the lack of validation for specific fields of packets sent by a client. This is caused by interaction between sptlrpc_svc_unwrap_request and lustre_msg_hdr_size_v2...
CVE-2019-20430
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-27
In the Lustre file system before 2.12.3, the mdt module has an LBUG panic (via a large MDT Body eadatasize field) due to the lack of validation for specific fields of packets sent by a client.