GitHub just suffered the world's biggest DDoS attack-it barely blinked

Memcached servers globally Image credit Shodan

By mislabeling a victim's IP as a target address, attackers can overload their network with traffic (up to 51,200x more in acceleration) and trigger a denial of service attack. But as internet infrastructure and service suppliers have seen Memcached DDoS attacks ramp up during the last week or so, they've moved swiftly to execute defences to block traffic arriving from Memcached servers.

The attack on GitHub surpassed even the 2016 massive DDoS attack against Dyn, which peaked at 1.2 Tbps and shut down internet services across the US.

Akamai believes that the attacks could be largely mitigated if memcached server operators can rate limit traffic from source port 11211 and prevent traffic from entering and exiting their networks, but it noted that this could take time.

Kottler said that Github has more than doubled its transit capacity recently, which has allowed it to withstand certain volumetric attacks without impact to users, and it is focused on making its edge infrastructure more resilient to current and future conditions of the internet, and less dependent upon human involvement, requires better automated intervention.

There are over 93,000 Memcached servers now connected online that can be abused for this type of DDoS attack, and this seems to be exactly what happened yesterday.

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Within 10 minutes, GitHub had automatically called for help from Akamai Prolexic, a DDoS mitigation service. The attackers have sent about 128.6 Million packets.

Attacks of the size potentially created by memcached reflection can not be easily defended against by data center solutions, requiring the cooperation of upstream ISPs and/or cloud based DDoS protection services.

While the attack on Github was larger in volume, the Dyn DDoS was both more sustained and more effective, knocking out internet connections and major websites across large portions of the U.S. for many hours. The lack of security enables any cybercriminal to access and exploit them by using a special command packet.

When a system receives a memcached get request, it forms a response by collecting the requested values from memory and then sending them back in an uninterrupted stream.

Known as the amplification attack, attackers don't need to recruit a botnet as they can simply spoof the IP address of their victim and send small queries to multiple memcached servers that are then created to elicit a much larger response.

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The tactic is known as an "amplification attack". This would make it the biggest DDoS attack recorded so far.

"Their sheer volume may have a negative effect on the ability of networks to handle customer internet traffic".

In those large attacks, systems will often switch over to a dedicated cloud DDoS provider, Stephenson explained.

In their research paper, the 0Kee team estimated Memcached servers could be abused to launch DDoS attacks of around 2 Tbps.

Sammy Migues, principal scientist at Synopsys, said: "This massive DDoS attack was possible because organizations operating memcached servers failed to implement some very basic security practices".

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