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Threat Alert

Threat Alert CVE-2023-44487 HTTP/2 RAPID RESET

October 17, 20234 min read

UPDATE 11/17/2023

Patching continues.


Published: 2023-10-10 Updated: 2023-10-16
Base Score: 7.5 HIGH Vector: CVSS:3.1/AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:U/C:N/I:N/A:H

Vulnerability Exploit In The Wild

DDoS (Dedicated Denial of Service) attacks

A DDoS occurs when attackers attempt to overwhelm a service with junk traffic. The goal is to bring the service down.

An attack doesn't need to be fancy to be a pain in the butt, the ability to access any digital service, from critical infrastructure to crucial information is vital for all organizations.

These attacks are a classic internet menace and will continue to as hackers are always working on new strategies in an effort to make a DDoS bigger or more effective.


GOOGLE, AMAZON, MICROSOFT, and Cloudflare revealed this week that they battled massive, record-setting distributed denial of service attacks against their cloud infrastructure in August and September that used CVE-2023-44487.

The HTTP/2 protocol allows a denial of service (server resource consumption) because request cancellation can reset many streams quickly, as exploited in the wild in August through October 2023.

An important point to note is where the vulnerability came from. Rapid Reset is not a particular piece of software. It’s in the specification for the HTTP/2 network protocol used for loading webpages. Developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), HTTP/2 is the faster and more efficient version of the classic internet protocol HTTP and has been the standard for about eight years. HTTP/2 has been widely adopted as it works better on mobile and uses less bandwidth. IETF is currently developing HTTP/3.

This exploit is rare as a vulnerability in a standard is unusual. Lucky for us, by carrying out the assaults, hackers revealed the existence of the protocol vulnerability and how it could be exploited. We call that cause and effect “burning a zero day.”

So you know, unlike a specific software exploit, like, a Windows bug that gets patched by Microsoft or a Safari bug that gets patched by Apple, a flaw in a protocol can't be fixed by one central entity because each website implements the standard in its own way. Sounds bad, right?

But it’s not, with one exception. When major cloud services and DDoS-defense providers create fixes for their services, it goes a long way toward protecting everyone who uses their infrastructure. The exception? Organizations and individuals running their own web servers need to work out their own protections.


DDoS attacks can have wide-ranging consequences, including loss of business and unavailability of critical applications. Recovery and remediation can go far beyond the end of an attack

The recent attacks were particularly noteworthy, though, because hackers generated them by exploiting a vulnerability in a foundational web protocol. This means that while patching efforts are well underway, fixes will need to essentially reach every web server globally before these attacks can be fully stamped out.

This attack abuses an underlying weakness in the HTTP/2 protocol and any vendor that has implemented HTTP/2 will be subject to the attack.” What this means is the problem is generally relevant to every modern web server.

It will take years to reach full adoption of these patches, though, and there will still be some services that did their own HTTP/2 implementation from scratch and don't have a patch coming from anywhere else.

The scary thing is that the big tech companies discovered this while it was being actively exploited and that means it can be used to take a service down like operational tech or industrial control which would impact infrastructures, including publicly relied upon governmental ones.


Dubbed “HTTP/2 Rapid Reset,” the vulnerability can only be exploited for denial of service—it doesn't allow attackers to remotely take over a server or exfiltrate data.

One great thing to note in this situation is that the availability of open source and the prevalence of code reuse (instead of always building everything from scratch) is a big advantage. Most likely, many web servers have copied their HTTP/2 implementation from somewhere else rather than reinvent the wheel and if these projects are maintained, they will develop Rapid Reset fixes that can proliferate out to users.

Though the string of recent DDoS attacks on Google, Cloudflare, Microsoft, and Amazon raised the alarm for being so large, the companies were ultimately able to repel the attacks, which didn't cause lasting damage.

Even though the patching process will take time, and some web servers will remain vulnerable long term, the internet is safer now than if attackers hadn't shown their cards by exploiting the flaw.

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Ange "Gos" Payton

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