April 19th, 2015

Press X to DDoS (part 1)

An Industry in the Crosshairs
This is first in a two-part series on DDoS attacks on the gaming industry. This blog post is an overview of these attacks on the industry as a whole.

Every day millions of people play online video games. The tools of the trade are mostly familiar (controller, console, flat screen), but for some, they also include distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack tools to take their opponents offline or disrupt the platform itself.

The online gaming industry has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most frequently attacked industries. According to Arbor Networks 2014 WISR report, 36% of all attacks were based on online gaming motivations. In reality, this figure may be much higher considering that many of the ‘gamer v gamer’ attacks are relatively small. The WISR report is based on ISP data, and unless the attack was large enough to be noticed by the ISP, it may not be accounted for in the report.

A quick search on Twitter for ‘ddos’ will reveal a plethora Tweets regarding gaming attacks and discussions about attacks on gaming platform and other gamers. To give some context, consider the following different types DDoS attacks in the gaming space:

  • Gamers attacking other gamers
  • Gamers attacking the gaming platform
  • Platform operators attacking each other (take down the competition)
  • ‘Casting’ platforms being attacked as retribution against a gamer

There are several factors that make these attacks so common. The profile of the gamers themselves is important to consider. Generally gamers are computer savvy, they are competitive and they are connected to each other and the web in general, where tools are available and knowledge is easily shared and obtained. Botnets can be rented, booter programs can be misused and youtube videos provide easy instructions.

For the gaming platform operator, the stakes are high. The platform is the business. If unavailable, the gamers will seek alternatives, revenue is lost and brand/reputation is damaged. For online gambling sites, the stakes are even higher. A DDoS attack can prevent legitimate wagers to be placed and event based betting can be severely impacted. Once a basketball or cricket match has begun, it’s too late to take new bets, so the window has closed. Millions in revenue can be lost.

For the 2nd installment of this blog series, read Press X to DDoS (part 2).

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