As cyber legions rise, malicious DDoS attacks climb 203%

Patriotic activism increased dramatically in the first half of 2022, as both established and newly formed pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian groups aimed to wreak havoc by stealing and leaking information and carrying out denial-of-service attacks.

Attacks, ranging from cases of hacktivism to terabit attacks in Asia and the United States, increased significantly during the first half of 2022.

The number of malicious DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks climbed 203% compared to the first six months of 2021, cybersecurity company Radware said in its mid-year report.

“The threat landscape saw a marked shift in the first half of 2022,” said Pascal Geenens, director of threat intelligence for Radware. “As Russia invaded Ukraine, the cyber focus changed. It shifted from the consequences of the pandemic, including an increase in attack surfaces driven by work from home and the rise of underground crime syndicates to a ground swell of DDoS activity launched by patriotic hacktivists and new legions of threat actors.”

There were 60% more malicious DDoS incidents during the first six months of 2022 than during the entire year of 2021, the company noted.

DDoS, along with data leaks and website defacements, are commonly used by cyber legions and aimed at disruption and chaos. Both pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian patriotic activists engage in DDoS operations daily, usually to threaten their enemies and spread (mis)information.

“No organization in the world is safe from cyber retaliation at this time,” Geenens warns. “Online vigilantes and hacktivists could disrupt wider security efforts driven by nations and authorities. New legions of actors could introduce extreme unpredictability for intelligence services, creating a potential for spillover and wrongful attribution that could eventually lead to an escalation of the cyber conflict.”

We’ve also witnessed hacktivism operations outside the war in Ukraine. For example, the OpsBedil operation, first seen in 2021, has resurged amid the escalating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. The cyber operation against Israel is conducted by the pro-Palestinian hacktivists DragonForce Malaysia.

In connection with the Philippines’ 2022 general elections, major media outlets, including CNN, were targeted by DDoS.

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