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Dutch political websites hit by cyber attacks as EU voting starts


3 min read
Dutch political websites hit by cyber attacks as EU voting starts

This post is also available in Nederlands.

The 2024 European Parliament election started in the Netherlands today, June 6, 2024, and will continue through June 9 in the other 26 countries that are part of the European Union. Cloudflare observed DDoS attacks targeting multiple election or politically-related Internet properties on election day in the Netherlands, as well as the preceding day.

These elections are highly anticipated. It’s also the first European election without the UK after Brexit.

According to news reports, several websites of political parties in the Netherlands suffered cyberattacks on Thursday, with a pro-Russian hacker group called HackNeT claiming responsibility.

On June 5 and 6, 2024, Cloudflare systems automatically detected and mitigated DDoS attacks that targeted at least three politically-related Dutch websites. Significant attack activity targeted two of them, and is described below.

A DDoS attack, short for Distributed Denial of Service attack, is a type of cyber attack that aims to take down or disrupt Internet services such as websites or mobile apps and make them unavailable for users. DDoS attacks are usually done by flooding the victim's server with more traffic than it can handle. To learn more about DDoS attacks and other types of attacks, visit our Learning Center.

Attackers typically use DDoS attacks but also exploit other vulnerabilities and types of attacks simultaneously.

Daily DDoS mitigations on June 5 reached over 1 billion HTTP requests in the Netherlands, most of which targeted two election or political party websites. The attack continued on June 6. Attacks on one website peaked on June 5 at 14:00 UTC (16:00 local time) with 115 million requests per hour, with the attack lasting around four hours. Attacks on another politically-related website peaked at the same time at 65 million requests per hour.

On June 6, the first politically-related site with the highest peak on June 5 referenced above was attacked again for several hours. The main attack peak occurred at 11:00 UTC (13:00 local time), with 44 million requests per hour.

The main June 5 DDoS attack on one of the websites peaked at 14:13 UTC (16:13 local time), reaching 73,000 requests per second (rps) in an attack that lasted for a few hours. This attack is illustrated by the blue line in the graph below, which shows that it ramped slowly over the first half of the day, and then appeared to abruptly stop at 18:06. And on June 6, the main attack on the second website peaked at 11:01 UTC (13:01 local time) with 52,000 rps.

Geopolitical motivations

Elections, geopolitical changes, and disputes also impact the online world and cyberattacks. Our DDoS threat report for Q1 2024 gives a few recent examples. One notable case was the 466% surge in DDoS attacks on Sweden after its acceptance into the NATO alliance, mirroring the pattern observed during Finland’s NATO accession in 2023.

As we’ve seen in recent years, real-world conflicts, disputed and highly anticipated elections, and wars are always accompanied by cyberattacks. We reported (1, 2) on an increase in cyberattacks following the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, 2023. We’ve put together a list of recommendations to optimize your defenses against DDoS attacks, and you can also follow our step-by-step wizards to secure your applications and prevent DDoS attacks.

If you want to follow more trends and insights about the Internet and elections in particular, you can check Cloudflare Radar, and more specifically our new 2024 Elections Insights report, that we’re keeping up to date as national elections take place throughout the year.

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AttacksDDoSPoliticsElection SecurityEuropeEuropean UnionCloudflare RadarTrendsElections

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João Tomé|@emot

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