Online gaming a 'hotbed' for DDoS attacks — report

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January 13, 2021

Online gaming is becoming an extremely lucrative target for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, according to cloud-based DDoS security company Nexusguard.

77% of cyber-attacks target the online gaming and gambling industries in Q3 2020, according to the company, preying on those the ever-growing popularity of gaming in the midst of lockdowns across the world.

This popularity attracted attention from attackers, contributing to a 287% year-on-year increase in DDoS attacks in Q3 2020, Nexusguard says.

The latency and availability issues present in online gaming, in particular, presented an attractive target to attackers, in addition to the enduring popularity of gaming in the era of COVID-19. Nexusguard says gamers specifically are lucrative and irresistible targets, because they are ‘emotionally engaged, socially active, and often spend disposable income on their gaming accounts.’

Nexusguard chief technology officer Juniman Kasman says the trend towards attacking the gaming industry should be closely monitored by those in the gaming industry and cybersecurity sector alike.

“Online gaming is snowballing in part due to the growth of cloud computing as well as the limited options for home entertainment during the pandemic, providing cyber attackers with a wide population of targets to exploit,” says Kasman.

“Game service providers, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and other organisations should take steps to safeguard service, including segregating applications to minimise collateral damage or rehearsing incident response drills to reduce service disruption during attacks.”

Although online gaming is highly sensitive to latency and packet loss, Nexusguard researchers warn sensitive detection and high-capacity mitigation alone are insufficient to overcome large DDoS attacks.

Gaming enterprises and service providers must collaborate to combat attack tactics through a combination of technology, knowledge sharing and best security practices.

In its Q3 2020 Threat Report, Nexusguard revealed that a whopping 99.5% of cyber-threats in the quarter were ‘large-scale attacks’, with a high chance of overwhelming systems with high volumes of malicious traffic.

The majority of these cases (99.4%) were single vector attacks where perpetrators occupy all bandwidth within a game server. In turn, this causes gamers to experience disruptions, resulting in their migration to alternative servers with faster and more stable connectivity.

Nexusguard’s report comes after a tumultuous year regarding DDoS attacks. A report from Imperva late last year warned of ‘record cyber risk’ for the 2020 holiday shopping season, following a flood of consumers turning to online channels to purchase goods.

Cybercriminals capitalised on the chaos, says Imperva, and shifted to a remote world by launching bad bot attacks and DDoS attacks with the goal of disrupting online activities.