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DDoS Attacks: Being prepared is the key

What are DoS and DDoS attacks and how do they differ?

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a method where an attacker overloads your connected resource or server with traffic that does not respond to any requests. That is, the attacker is connecting to your server with fake traffic.

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a DoS attack where the fake traffic comes from multiple machines or computers or botnets, blocking your server and making it difficult to stop or trace the attackers.

To put it simply, a DDoS attack is like an intentional clog or jam caused by an attacker to prevent your outlet or machine from receiving any legitimate or invited traffic/customers.

Both types of attacks aim to overload your IoT device, server, website, or any web application. The final goal is to interrupt your services either temporarily or permanently. While we hear about DDoS attacks affecting large companies, the truth is that the majority of victims of DDoS attacks are small and medium-sized businesses.

How does DDoS differ from other cyberattacks?

Many aspects make DoS attacks fundamentally different from other cyberattacks. Which means, precautionary and preventive measures and tools will also differ.

  • Unlike other types of cyberattacks that include malware, DDoS attacks don’t attempt to breach your network security perimeter. Rather, the attack happens at the gate (so to speak) preventing legitimate access.
  • In a DDoS attack, it is difficult to understand and assess the damage to the system until we re-establish connectivity or communication with the asset. This makes DDoS attacks a perfect smokescreen to conduct other forms of cyberattacks.
  • DDoS might be a cover or diversion used by attackers to perform other attacks such as data theft or breach. The denial of service makes the detection of data theft difficult or impossible.
  • DDoS, also unlike other cyberattacks, is not subversive or covert by nature. They are highly noticeable events to many stakeholders and even to customers. But that said, they are equally difficult to predict as well.

Often, DDoS attacks may occur as periodic bursts of repeated assaults. This means, without the right measures, websites or assets can unexpectedly keep going offline, or the attacks may last for days or weeks as you keep trying to recover. If you do any part of your business online, this can be devastating to your business.

Types of DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks are among the easiest attacks to execute but also one of the most damaging cyberattacks. An attacker with relatively simple technical expertise, but with the help of automated bots and tools, can easily cause disruptions to your business operations.

Botnet

A botnet is a group of computers infected by malware, controlled by attackers to perform cyberattacks such as sharing spam mails or sending a huge amount of traffic aid a DDoS attack. Since they are automated, Botnets are part of most of the DDoS attacks these days.

The general types of DDoS attacks include:

Volumetric Attacks

As the name suggests, this attack is performed by directing sheer volume, many times several terabits per second, of fake traffic at your application or system. Such high volumes of unprepared traffic can cause traffic blocks, infrastructure crashes and stop processing requests, even legitimate requests.

Protocol Attacks

Protocol attacks are more focused than volumetric attacks. The attackers do not overload the entire network with a large amount of traffic. Instead, they exploit network vulnerabilities with pinpoint actions and overload the vulnerabilities on the Protocol layers, namely, TCP, UDP, and ICMP (Layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model).

Application Attacks

These attacks are similar to the Protocol attacks but are focused on the application layer (Layer 7 of the OSI model). The difference is, these attacks disrupt web resources, such as websites, web servers, and applications. This is generally achieved by pushing the server to perform or process a huge number of internal requests beyond the server’s or application’s capacity. This will overload its CPU or RAM.

For example, a website may be loaded with a performance-heavy query in a loop (that repeats itself) or a possible loophole in the application and thereby overloading the database.

Protective Measures

DDoS defense often requires special tools such as Web Application Firewalls, Application Delivery Controllers, Load Balancers, Content Delivery Networks (CDN) that need to be used in combination. Here are a few high-level best practices that you can follow to improve your protection against DoS and DDoS attacks.

  • Continuous network monitoring is useful to identify and understand normal traffic behavior from abnormal ones. This allows you to detect attacks and intervene in time to reduce the loss.
  • DDoS attack simulations are a helpful way to assess risks, and train employees for incident response, and expose the vulnerabilities in your network.
  • You must identify the critical infrastructure that might get DDoS attacked and place a warning system in place to help in the early detection of threats.
  • It is always good to have some provision for extra bandwidth on demand. It may not stop or mitigate an attack, but it will help you in reducing the damage to the business and the impact of any attack that will overload the network.
  • Prepare and train with a response plan. As with all the cyberattacks, it is always good to have a detailed chalked out plan of action in case of such an attack, that defines response parameters, deploy protection, and train a team to respond.

With the cyberattacks evolving with the use of automated bots and sophisticated masking tools, you will need expert guidance to build comprehensive strategies and manage advanced tools.

DDoS Incident Response

As mentioned earlier, the moment you realize you are under an attack, call in your action team and implement your response plan. Next, inform your carrier to help you filter out at least a few of the attacking IP addresses. It is also advisable to be transparent and inform your clients regarding the attack and that you are working on containing it.

Mitigative Measures and Recovery

After the attack, it is important to measure the extent of damage and prevent future attacks. Here are some things that need to be answered:

  • What assets were affected, attacked, and for how long?
  • How was the attack carried out?
  • Was there any other damage such as data theft?
  • Did your security and other vendors respond in time and how was their performance?

Alliant forensic experts will produce a detailed report assessing the attack along with suggestions to prevent similar attacks.

Alliant Advantage

The biggest weapon to combat a DDoS is to acknowledge the fact that such attacks are possible in the current connected world and prepare an action plan to reduce the damage.

Alliant’s expert cyber advisors can prepare your defenses for potential zero-day attacks, by building multilayered DDoS protection. We deploy and manage a combination of firewalls, VPNs, anti-spam filters, content filtering tools, network, and protocol monitoring tools.

Based on the analytics these tools provide we will design a customized comprehensive response plan. These plans and tools are upgraded periodically to stay up to date based on our overall market intelligence.

Consult the Alliant cybersecurity team today to get advised to strengthen your tools WAF and other tools, perform a detailed risk assessment and chalk out a detailed incident response plan.

Being prepared is the best weapon against DDoS, so being your preparations now with our experts.

 

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