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DDoS Attacks: Dangers and Ways to Protect your Network
DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks continue to make headlines. In the past week, one such act caused severe traffic issuesduring a key political debate in Mexico, affecting a website opposing presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Elections are set to take place on 1 July, and the target domain has been openly critical of his policies. During the attack, 185,000 visits took place in just 15 minutes; the majority originated in China and Russia.
This was a blatant attempt to crash the site, and the culprits have yet to be identified. Doing so can be incredibly difficult, as the traffic originates from compromised systems that disrupt sites involuntarily.
This isn’t the first time DDoS attacks have disrupted political websites, and countries are taking action to defend themselves. The US Election Assistance Commission has dedicated over $380m in funding for cybersecurity.
DDoS attacks defined
As discussed above, DDoS attacks involve flooding the target website with traffic from numerous origin points, possibly numbering in the thousands. As a result, stopping the DDoS attack in its tracks is basically impossible; there’s no single IP address causing the issue, and blocking all traffic will be restricting access for legitimate visitors.
They’re different to DoS attacks, which involve just a single computer and IP address working in conjunction to flood a vulnerable system.
There are a few common types of DDoS attack, including traffic-based ones.
Bandwidth attacks are another danger, which overload the system with overwhelming loads of ‘junk’ data, disrupting network bandwidth. This can cause a total denial of service.
Application DDoS attacks use data messages to reduce the application layer’s resources and make the system unable to function as it should.
When a website is unable to provide its customers or members with the services they expect, it can damage their reputation and disrupt their revenue. There’s a risk to security too, with consumers left wondering how safe their personal data may be.
This is a major concern for today’s more tech-savvy users, who are much more aware of the dangers lax security measures and cyber-attacks pose.
Taking action against DDoS attacks
How can you protect your network against DDoS attacks and ensure your business or organization is prepared to handle one if the worst happens?
Minimize the potential
Minimizing the surface area that would be vulnerable to attacks is key, as it essentially reduces the number of options available to would-be DDoS attacks.
To do this, consider guarding resources with Load Balancers or Content Distribution Networks. You can also place restrictions on traffic reaching vital parts of your system, such as your database servers, for further protection.
Create a plan of action
You need a plan for every major cybersecurity risk threatening your business and customers. With a DDoS plan, the key aspect is determining how you will keep delivering services if an attack manages to disrupt your system.
You should make sure everyone within your company is made aware of what a DDoS attack is, how it may manifest, and how their work would be affected.
The aim is to make sure your company as a whole would essentially be able to roll with the proverbial punches, to minimize the disruption and get back on track as soon as possible.
Get to know the signs
It’s best to learn the warning signs of an impending DDoS attack. While high-volume situations are common and can be damaging, low-volume ones may be triggered by troublemakers as a test of your network’s capabilities. These attacks allow cybercriminals / hackers to identify potential holes within your security.
Pay attention to your average traffic patterns. This may help you spot significant changes in geographic sources and volumes, enabling you to take preventative action before the attack is fully underway.
Capture the packet
When you start to notice a DDoS attack is in effect, you should try to spot the key characteristics in order to take action against it. DDoS attacks typically rely on forceful traffic volumes your system simply can’t handle, and while it may be impossible to sort the ‘good’ traffic from the ‘bad’, you can identify telltale similarities between sources.
Run a fast packet capture of the attack, and you should be able to find similarities fairly easily as the majority of traffic hitting your website will be part of the attack. Giveaway details might reveal themselves in the user agent or URI, but once you find a pattern you’ll be able to initiate a block via router ACL or firewall.
Routers and firewalls can stop specific IP addresses and filter unnecessary protocols, but they’re not a complete defense against high-volume attacks. Firewalls in particular should not be depended on to keep your entire network safe.
Again, having a plan in place and being prepared to shift gears is critical to minimize the disruption as much as possible.
DDoS attacks are, sadly, not going to go away any time soon. Your business or organization has to take steps necessary to stay as protected as possible and put a contingency plan in place to stop your infrastructure collapsing if an attack takes place.
Working with cybersecurity specialists and running a vulnerability assessment of your network can help you prepare. Want to know more about the options available to you?
Give our expert team a call!
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Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP