A Brief History of the Meris Botnet

A Brief History of the Meris Botnet

Meris first got our attention due to an exceptionally large .

During that same day, on September 6, attacks from Meris accounted for a record-breaking 17.5% of all L7 DDoS attacks that Cloudflare observed.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Overall, Meris targets about 50 different websites and applications every single day. Although the average attack peaked at 106K rps, the median attack size was actually smaller at 17.6K rps. The largest attack we’ve seen was 17.2M rps and that occurred in July. In the graph below, you can see the daily highest requests per second rate after we deployed the new rules. Since then, the largest attack we’ve seen was 16.7M rps, which took place on August 19.

Meris used to target Banks, Financial Services, and Insurance companies

Over the past few months, the industry that received the most attack traffic from the Meris botnet was the Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) industry

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Following the BFSI industry, the most attacked industries were the Publishing, Gaming/Gambling, and IT Services industries. And while BFSI was the number one most attacked industry when considering the Meris DDoS activity rate, it only came in fourth place when considering the percentage of targeted websites.

In terms of the percentage of targeted websites, the Computer Software industry came in first place. Almost 4% of all impacted websites were of Computer Software companies protected by Cloudflare, followed by Gaming/Gambling and IT Services with 3% and 2%, respectively.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Attacks on industries over time

Besides the total breakdowns shown above, we can also view the top industries the botnet attacked over time to understand the changing trends. These trends may be tied to political events, new video game releases, sporting events, or any other global or local public interest events.

Off the top, we can already see the two largest peaks on August 9 and August 29 — mainly on the Computer Software, Gaming/Gambling, and IT industries. Another interesting peak occurred on August 14 against Cryptocurrency providers.

In late August, the botnet was pointed against gambling and casino websites, generating attacks at rates of hundreds of thousands to millions of requests per second. A second significant wave against the same industry was launched in early September.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Meris targets websites in China, Australia, and US

Similarly to the analysis of the top industries, we can calculate the Meris DDoS activity rate per target country to identify which countries came under the most attacks. In total, China-based companies saw the largest amount of DDoS attacks. More than 33% of all requests generated by Meris were destined for China-based companies that are protected by Cloudflare. Australia came in second place, and the US in third.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

On the other hand, when we look at the number of websites that were targeted by Meris, the US came in first place. More than 12% of all websites that were targeted by Meris are operated by US-based companies. China came in second place with 5.6% and Russia in third with 4.4%.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Attacks on countries over time

Over time, we can see how the attacks on the top countries change. Similarly to the per-industry breakdown, we can also see two large peaks. The first one occurred on the same spike as the per-industry breakdown on August 9. However, the second one here occurred on September 1.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Location of the Meris bots

Although only tens of thousands of bots have been detected per attack, it is estimated that there are roughly 250,000 bots worldwide. As indicated above, the botnet is formed of MikroTik routers. Using the source IP address of the routers, we’re able to identify the origin country of the bots to paint a geographical representation of the bots’ presence and growth over time.

The change in the location of the bots doesn’t necessarily indicate that the botnet is growing or shrinking. It could also be that different bot groups are activated from time to time to spread the load of the attacks while attempting not to get caught.

At the beginning of August, the majority of the bots were located in Brazil. But by the end of August, that number plummeted to a single digit percentage close to zero. Meanwhile, the number of infected devices grew in the United States. From the beginning of September, the number of bots was significantly higher in the US, Russia, India, Indonesia, and China.

View the interactive graph on Cloudflare Radar.

Cloudflare protects against Meris attacks

Cloudflare operates autonomous DDoS protection systems that automatically detect and mitigate DDoS attacks of all types, including attacks launched by Meris and Mirai. These systems are also customizable, and Cloudflare customers can tweak and tune their DDoS protection settings as needed with the HTTP DDoS Managed Ruleset and the L3/4 DDoS Managed Ruleset.

Source:: CloudFlare