Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have come a long way since their first appearance in the early ’90s. The advancements in technology and innovations such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) have given hackers the perfect environment to execute DDoS attacks of unparalleled scale and efficiency. Given the fact that most businesses now have a digital component, DDoS has become a serious threat to all.
Unfortunately, many business owners do not take the necessary steps to prepare their networks for a DDoS attack. In this article, we will take a brief look at how DDoS attacks work. After that, we will explore what steps can be taken to effectively detect and mitigate them.
What Is a DDoS Attack?
A DDoS attack attempts to overwhelm a server by overloading it until it cannot function normally, essentially shutting down. Modern hackers execute such attacks by using vast networks of hijacked software, also known as botnets, to generate terabytes of fake traffic to the target. DDoS attacks are hard to detect and even harder to prevent, even with above-average security stacks. They are rather easy to perform and are especially useful for taking down websites and crippling internal workflows.
What started out as episodic and relatively small attacks has now evolved to an unprecedented degree. Nowadays, thousands of DDoS attacks are executed daily, targeting both small businesses and large corporations. The trend is expected to continue in 2021 and beyond, so companies need to act quickly and establish their defenses as soon as possible.
How Can DDoS Attacks Be Efficiently Mitigated?
DDoS mitigation cannot be successful with just a single software solution or a server tweak. In order to detect and respond to DDoS, you need a complex security stack and implementation of various mitigation techniques. What is even more important, you need to adapt your defenses after a DDoS attack, thus strengthening your methods. In the paragraphs below, we will present you with a list of DDoS mitigation techniques that are known to be effective, no matter the size and scope of your operation.
Improve Network Security
The first step you need to take is to ensure that your network utilizes industry-grade versions of the most fundamental security software solutions. While it might seem simple in the context of DDoS, making use of basic tools is the foundation on which each effective security stack is built. In addition to antivirus programs and firewalls, it is essential to invest in monitoring systems. Those will play a key role in detecting incoming DDoS attacks.
Here is a checklist of software you need to have and keep updated:
- Antivirus software
- Threat monitoring software
- Network monitoring system
- Anti-malware software
Make Use of CDNs
A major mistake that can have dire consequences for your network is allowing for a single point of failure. The term describes a part of a system that has the potential of taking the whole thing down if compromised. DDoS attacks that focus on just this one part of your infrastructure can have devastating effects. In order to avoid such an issue, you can make use of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).
What such a service does is to keep cached versions of your content at various locations. Additionally, it boosts the overall performance of the network by optimally distributing resources across your different properties.
Minimize the Attack Surface
One effective DDoS mitigation technique is to limit the potential targets of the attack. You can achieve this by distributing your assets separately across your network, so they cannot become easy targets. Using firewalls and restricting access will allow you to process only necessary traffic to your different assets, making sure no unwanted requests reach the server at all.
We recommend keeping your database servers on a private network while keeping the web servers in the public network. When you combine that with the other methods listed here, you can drastically limit the number of vulnerabilities that DDoS hackers can target.
Utilize Web Application Firewalls (WAF)
We already mentioned how important firewalls can be when it comes to DDoS attack mitigation. When it comes to web servers, installing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a neat trick that can help prevent DDoS activity. When placed between an access point and the server, the WAF can act as a reverse proxy, essentially stopping traffic from reaching the server without going through the firewall first.
The good thing about WAF is that you can set up rules for incoming traffic. In the event of a DDoS attack, the WAF can effectively drop all the incoming fake traffic before it even gets close to your server.
Implement Black Hole Routing
Black hole routing means directing all incoming traffic to a null route (hence the name “black hole”). As a result, both real and fake traffic never reaches the server and essentially drops from the network. With the right monitoring tools, you can be able to identify an incoming DDoS attack. From that point, it is only a matter of setting up rules that route the malicious traffic to a black hole, negating the attack altogether.
Nowadays, DDoS attacks occur with stunning frequency, targeting both small and large corporations for a variety of reasons. From blackmail and political activism to sabotaging the competition — DDoS attacks are one of the preferred weapons of hackers worldwide. By implementing our practical tips above and dedicating more resources to your IT security resources and staff, you should be able to protect yourself from DDoS activity. While no single technique guarantees success, a well-thought-out combination of tools and methods can go a long way to securing your network.
Steven Bowcut, CPP, PSP is an award-winning journalist covering cyber and physical security. He is an editor and writer for Brilliance Security Magazine as well as other security and non-security online publications. Follow and connect with Steve on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.