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Blame the US, Not China, For Recent Surge in Massive Cyberattacks

Mikko Lemola/Shutterstock.com

The internet’s new scourge is hugely damaging global attacks that harness armies of routers, cameras and other connected gadgets—the so-called internet of things—to direct floods of traffic that can take down swaths of the network.

The blame so far has largely fallen on the Chinese manufacturers who churn out devices with shoddy security on the cheap. But all those devices have to be plugged in somewhere for them to used maliciously. And American consumers are increasingly the ones plugging them in.

Nearly a quarter of the internet addresses behind these distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks are located in the United States, newresearch from network services firm Akamai has found. Some 180,000 US IP addresses took part in DDoS attacks in the last quarter of 2016, it found—more than four times as many as addresses originating in China.

Akamai’s findings are particularly notable because the armies of hacked devices that carry out DDoS attacks—such as those controlled by the Mirai malware—don’t bother covering their tracks. That means the IP addresses are far more likely to genuinely correspond to a location within a certain country, the report’s authors write.

The findings also end an era of Chinese dominance in DDoS attacks. Over the previous year, China has accounted for the highest proportion of IP addresses taking part in such attacks globally. Now, the U.S. is the clear leader, accounting for 24 percent of such addresses. The U.K. and Germany are a distant second and third. (To be clear, though, wherever the attacking devices’ IP addresses are, the person controlling them could be located anywhere.)

The huge number of devices taking part in DDoS attacks in the U.S. means regulation there, and in Europe, could stem the flood of damaging traffic. Of course, IoT regulation is a thorny issue—essentially, no U.S. federal agency really wants to take the problem on—and there remain technical questions over how to actually go about blocking the attacks. Still, it’s a lot clearer now that simply pointing the finger at China isn’t enough.

By Joon Ian Wong Quartz February 16, 2017

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