Approximately 2.9 million Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks were launched in the first quarter of 2021, according to research from NETSCOUT’s ATLAS Security Engineering & Response Team (ASERT).
The estimated figure represents a 31% increase compared to the same period in 2020. All three months of the year’s first quarter saw more than 900,000 DDoS attacks, which researchers said exceeded the existing baseline of 800,000 per month.
“The first two months of the year are usually the slowest months in the DDoS attack calendar,” wrote researchers.
“This year, we saw 972,000 attacks in January, which eclipses the record set last May for the largest number of attacks yet seen in one month.”
ASERT has warned that last year’s record-breaking volume of DDoS attacks could be exceeded in 2021.
“If this activity holds, we are on a trajectory that blows right by the unprecedented 10-million-attack threshold recorded in 2020,” wrote researchers.
Comparing the first quarters of this year and 2020, researchers noted no significant increase in the size of the attacks launched. During both periods, attackers opted to deploy fast attacks that victims would find difficult to mitigate.
The length of the attacks and the throughput both increased year-on-year. Many attacks (42%) lasted between five and ten minutes, while assaults lasting fewer than five minutes dropped from 24% to 19%.
“Adversaries ratcheted up throughput considerably, as the max throughput recorded increased 71% compared with Q1 2020,” noted researchers.
Analyzing which industries attackers chose to hit, researchers observed that healthcare, education and online services were prime targets.
Healthcare organizations suffered about 7,000 attacks in Q3 2020, 10,000 attacks in Q4, and 8,400 attacks in Q1 of 2021. The figure for the first quarter of 2021 represents a 53% increase year over year.
In education, attacks rose by 41% over the past three quarters, with 32,000 attacks in Q3 2020, 39,000 in Q4 and 45,000 in the first quarter of this year.
This latest research supports conclusions noted in NETSCOUT’s semi-annual Threat Intelligence Report, which predicted DDoS attacks would continue to hit record numbers this year while becoming increasingly complex in scope.