May 9, 2013, 9:17 AM

Retailers are the main target of denial-of-service attacks in 2012

Akamai reports a 207% year-over-year spike for such attacks.

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Akamai Technologies Inc. says that its customers reported 768 distributed denial-of-service attacks in 2012—of which 35%, or 269 of them, targeted retailers. That makes commerce the main target for such attacks against Akamai clients last year.

The report marks the first time that the provider of content delivery, web hosting and web performance management services has reported such attacks against its clients. “We are using this opportunity to set a baseline against which to measure future attack volume,” Akamai says.

A DDos attack occurs when perpetrators attempt to knock a site offline by sending an overwhelming volume of traffic to it. It’s distributed because the attack traffic comes from many computers, often thousands, that criminals control through software they surreptitiously load onto consumers’ PCs.

The 2012 total for those attacks is 207% higher than the 250 reported in 2011, though it is not immediately clear how many of the 2011 attacks targeted commerce. “In many ways, DDoS has become the weapon of choice for multiple types of attackers, from political activists to criminals, and potentially even nation-states,” Akamai says in its report.

Of those attacks reported against Akamai clients in 2012:

• 155, or about 20%, were against enterprise clients; the segment includes financial services

• 164, or about 21%, targeted media and entertainment organizations

• 110, or about 14%, were against high-tech companies

• 70, or about 9%, hit public sector agencies

The fourth-quarter report, entitled “The State of the Internet,” also points to China as the leading source of global attack traffic, accounting for 41% of it, up from 33% in the third quarter of 2012. The United States took second place with 10%, down from 13% in the third quarter. Turkey beat out Russia for third place, with 4.7% of attack traffic, up from 4.3%. Russia accounted for 4.3% of attack traffic, down from 4.7% in the third quarter of 2012.

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