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Hackers target environmental services as green energy movement revs up; increase DDoS attacks in Q4: Cloudflare

With global debate going against fossil fuel and debate in favour of eco-friendly energy alternatives gaining ground, hackers seem to have turned their attention to energy services and made environmental services a key target for the DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks.

Cybersecurity experts have noticed a sharp uptick in the attacks on this niche segment in the quarter ended December 31, 2023.

The Environmental Services industry experienced an unprecedented surge in HTTP DDoS attacks, with these attacks constituting half of all its HTTP traffic. This marked a staggering 618-fold increase compared to the previous year, highlighting a disturbing trend in the cyber threat landscape.

Hackers launch simultaneous attacks on a target website using a host of computers, which were taken over by them using malware. This makes the website unavailable for genuine visitors.

In the final quarter of 2023, the landscape of cyber threats witnessed a significant shift. While the Cryptocurrency sector was initially leading in terms of the volume of HTTP DDoS attack requests, a new target emerged as a primary victim. 

“This surge in cyber attacks coincided with COP 28, which was conducted from November 30 to December 12. The conference was a pivotal event, signalling what many considered the ‘beginning of the end’ for the fossil fuel era,” Cloudflare, Inc, a connectivity cloud services company, said in its quarterly report on DDoS attacks.

“It was observed that in the period leading up to COP 28, there was a noticeable spike in HTTP attacks targeting Environmental Services websites. This pattern wasn’t isolated to this event alone,” it said.

In second place was the Packaging and Freight Delivery industry, which is interesting because of its timely correlation with online shopping during Black Friday and the winter holiday season.

The number of attacks on the retail sector, which witnessed some back-to-back online festivals towards the end of the last quarter, witnessed a sharp increase in attacks.

“The number of attacks on retail companies has gone up by 23 per cent when compared to the attacks in the comparable quarter last year,” the report said.

Total DDoS attacks in 2023

Cloudflare said its automated defences mitigated over 5.2 million HTTP DDoS attacks consisting of over 26 trillion requests. That averages 594 HTTP DDoS attacks and 3 billion mitigated requests every hour.

Despite these astronomical figures, the amount of HTTP DDoS attack requests declined by 20 per cent compared to 2022. This decline was not just annual but was also observed in the fourth quarter of 2023 where the number of HTTP DDoS attack requests decreased by seven per cent year-on-year and 18 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

By volume of attack traffic, Cryptocurrency was the most attacked industry in the fourth quarter. Over 330 billion HTTP requests targeted it.

Together, China and the US account for a little over a quarter of all HTTP DDoS attack traffic in the world. 

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