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Rise of politically motivated DDoS attacks represents a major threat ahead of UK general election – contribution from NETSCOUT

June 2024 by Richard Hummel, Threat Research Lead chez NETSCOUT

With the UK general election just two weeks away, instances of politically motivated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) hacktivism are a significant concern. Election campaigns present a tempting opportunity for threat actors who attempt to cause maximum disruption by launching attacks, which could influence electoral results by destabilising the information and communication platforms of candidates and parties. Cybercriminals also wreak havoc after elections if the outcomes oppose their political views.

Indeed, as voting for the 2024 European Parliament elections took place across Europe earlier this month, pro-Russian hacktivist groups vowed to launch a series of DDoS attacks against European internet infrastructure due to perceived Russophobia and double standards of European authorities. In the ensuing days, websites in a number of European countries were targeted, including political party websites in the Netherlands and state-run websites in Ireland.

Ahead of the UK’s general election, Richard Hummel, threat intelligence lead for NETSCOUT, warns the rise of politically motivated DDoS hacktivism are a major concern:

“The months leading up to the UK general election have seen a shift in the global cybersecurity landscape towards a trend of politically motivated DDoS attacks. An unprecedented number of attacks were launched by hacktivist groups such as NoName057(016) and Anonymous Sudan, targeting opponents for geopolitical causes, as well as waging political and religious war against any nation or official that stands in the way of their ideals.

“In terms of election-related DDoS attacks, cybercriminals can impede voting processes in several ways, such as overwhelming voter information and registration sites, disrupting campaign websites and targeting official results reporting. The outcomes of these votes can also lead to an uptick in cyberattacks. For example, Poland experienced a surge in DDoS attack activity at the hands of NoName057(016) in late December 2023 after the swearing-in of its new Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, who expressed the nation’s support for Ukraine, which stands in direct opposition to the threat actors’ interests.

“Ahead of the election, government organisations, service providers, and enterprises should be prepared for DDoS attacks to increase significantly. This necessitates organisations implementing industry best current practices (BCPs) in conjunction with ensuring their DDoS protection solutions are up to standard and ready to take on the threat that hacktivist groups pose.”

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