DDoS Attack on Cloud Auto-scaling Mechanisms

March 1, 2023

Auto-scaling mechanisms are an important line of defense against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) in the cloud. Using auto-scaling, machines can be added and removed in an on-line manner to respond to fluctuating load. It is commonly believed that the auto-scaling mechanism casts DDoS attacks into Economic Denial of Sustainability (EDoS) attacks. Rather than suffering from performance degradation up to a total denial of service, the victim suffers only from the economic damage incurred by paying for the extra resources required to process the bogus traffic of the attack.

Contrary to this belief, we present and analyze the Yo-Yo attack, a new attack against the auto-scaling mechanism, that can cause significant performance degradation in addition to economic damage. In the Yo-Yo attack, the attacker sends peri- odic bursts of overload, thus causing the auto-scaling mechanism to oscillate between scale-up and scale-down phases. The Yo- Yo attack is harder to detect and requires less resources from the attacker compared to traditional DDoS. We demonstrate the attack on Amazon EC2, and analyze protection measures the victim can take by reconfiguring the auto-scaling mechanism.

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