Cloudflare Reports Q4 2022 DDoS Attack Trends
Cloudflare has announced its 2022 Q4 DDoS report. This report includes insights and trends about the DDoS threat landscape — as observed across the global Cloudflare network.
In the last quarter of the year, as billions around the world celebrated holidays and events such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Black Friday, Singles’ Day, and New Year, DDoS attacks persisted and even increased in size, frequency, and sophistication whilst attempting to disrupt our way of life. Cloudflare’s automated DDoS defenses stood firm and mitigated millions of attacks in the last quarter alone. The company has taken all of those attacks, aggregated, analysed, and prepared the bottom lines to help organisations better understand the threat landscape.
Highlights of the DDoS Report
Global DDoS insights
In the last quarter of the year, despite a year-long decline, the amount of HTTP DDoS attack traffic still increased by 79% YoY. While most of these attacks were small, Cloudflare constantly saw terabit-strong attacks, DDoS attacks in the hundreds of millions of packets per second, and HTTP DDoS attacks peaking in the tens of millions of requests per second launched by sophisticated botnets.
- Volumetric attacks surged; the number of attacks exceeding rates of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) grew by 67% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ), and the number of attacks lasting more than three hours increased by 87% QoQ.
- Ransom DDoS attacks steadily increased this year. In Q4, over 16% of respondents reported receiving a threat or ransom demand as part of the DDoS attack that targeted their Internet properties.
Industries most targeted by DDoS attacks
- HTTP DDoS attacks constituted 35% of all traffic to Aviation and Aerospace Internet properties.
- Similarly, over a third of all traffic to the Gaming/Gambling and Finance industries was network-layer DDoS attack traffic.
- A whopping 92% of traffic to Education Management companies was part of network-layer DDoS attacks. Likewise, 73% of traffic to the Information Technology and Services and the Public Relations & Communications industries were also network-layer DDoS attacks.
Source and targets of DDoS attacks
- In Q4, 93% of network-layer traffic to Chinese Internet properties behind Cloudflare were part of network-layer DDoS attacks. Similarly, over 86% of traffic to Cloudflare customers in Lithuania and 80% of traffic to Cloudflare customers in Finland was attack traffic.
- On the application-layer, over 42% of all traffic to Georgian Internet properties behind Cloudflare was part of HTTP DDoS attacks, followed by Belize with 28%, and San Marino in third place with just below 20%. Almost 20% of all traffic from Libya that Cloudflare saw was application-layer DDoS attack traffic.
- Over 52% of all traffic recorded in Cloudflare’s data centres in Botswana was network-layer DDoS attack traffic. Similarly, in Cloudflare’s data centres in Azerbaijan, Paraguay, and Palestine, network-layer DDoS attack traffic constituted approximately 40% of all traffic.
Ransom DDoS attacks
As opposed to Ransomware attacks, where the victim is tricked into downloading a file or clicking on an email link that encrypts and locks their computer files until they pay a ransom fee, Ransom DDoS attacks can be much easier for attackers to launch. Ransom DDoS attacks don’t require tricking the victim into opening an email or clicking a link, nor do they require a network intrusion or a foothold to be carried out.
In a Ransom DDoS attack, the attacker doesn’t need access to the victim’s computer but rather just floods them with enough traffic to negatively impact their Internet services. The attacker will demand a ransom payment, usually in the form of Bitcoin, to stop and/or avoid further attacks.
- In the last quarter of 2022, 16% of Cloudflare customers that responded to our survey reported being targeted by HTTP DDoS attacks accompanied by a threat or a ransom note. This represents a 14% increase QoQ but a 16% decrease YoY in reported Ransom DDoS attacks.
Application-layer DDoS attacks
Application-layer DDoS attacks, specifically HTTP/S DDoS attacks, are cyber-attacks that usually aim to disrupt web servers by making them unable to process legitimate user requests. If a server is bombarded with more requests than it can process, the server will drop legitimate requests and – in some cases – crash, resulting in degraded performance or an outage for legitimate users.
- We see a clear downward trend in attacks each quarter this year. However, despite the downward trend, HTTP DDoS attacks still increased by 79% when compared to the same quarter of previous year.
- In the quarter where many people travel for the holidays, the Aviation and Aerospace was the most attacked industry. Approximately 35% of traffic to the industry was part of HTTP DDoS attacks. In second place, the Events Services industry saw over 16% of its traffic as HTTP DDoS attacks. In the following places were the Media and Publishing, Wireless, Government Relations, and Non-profit industries.
- In the Middle East, the Education industry saw the most attacks.
- In Q4, almost 20% of all HTTP traffic originating from Libya was part of HTTP DDoS attacks. Similarly, 18% of traffic originating from Timor-Leste, an island country in Southeast Asia just north of Australia, was attack traffic. DDoS attack traffic also accounted for 17% of all traffic originating from the British Virgin Islands and 14% of all traffic originating from Afghanistan.
Network-layer DDoS attacks
- After a year of steady increases in network-layer DDoS attacks, in the fourth and final quarter of the year, the number of attacks actually decreased by 14% QoQ and 13% YoY.
- In Q4, the Education Management industry saw the highest percentage of network-layer DDoS attack traffic — 92% of all traffic routed to the industry was network-layer DDoS attack traffic. Not too far behind, in the second and third places, the Information Technology and Services alongside the Public Relations and Communications industries also saw a significant amount of network-layer DDoS attack traffic (~73%). With a high margin, the Finance, Gaming / Gambling, and Medical Practice industries came in next with approximately a third of their traffic flagged as attack traffic.
- Grouping attacks by our customers’ billing country lets us understand which countries are subject to more attacks. In Q4, a staggering 93% of traffic to Chinese Internet properties behind Cloudflare was network-layer DDoS attack traffic. In second place, Lithuanian Internet properties behind Cloudflare saw 87% of their traffic belonging to network-layer DDoS attack traffic. Following were Finland, Singapore, and Taiwan with the highest percentage of attack traffic.
Commenting on the report, Bashar Bashaireh, Managing Director & Head of Sales – Middle East and Türkiye at Cloudflare, “Defending against DDoS attacks is critical for organisations of all sizes. While attacks may be initiated by humans, they are executed by bots — and to play to win, you must fight bots with bots. Detection and mitigation must be automated as much as possible, because relying solely on humans puts defenders at a disadvantage.”
“Cloudflare’s automated systems constantly detect and mitigate DDoS attacks for our customers, so they don’t have to. Over the years, it has become easier, cheaper, and more accessible for attackers and attackers-for-hire to launch DDoS attacks. But as easy as it has become for the attackers, we want to make sure that it is even easier – and free – for defenders of organisations of all sizes to protect themselves against DDoS attacks of all types. We’ve been providing unmetered and unlimited DDoS protection for free to all of our customers since 2017 — when we pioneered the concept. Cloudflare’s mission is to help build a better Internet. A better Internet is one that is more secure, faster, and reliable for everyone – even in the face of DDoS attacks,” he concludes.