Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks represent one of the internet’s most notable threats. These incidents occur when malicious parties attempt to make networks unavailable to authorized users, typically by flooding them with excessive traffic.
DDoS traffic can take the form of fake packets, requests for connection, or even threats of extortion promising more damaging attacks. Unfortunately, even if such issues are resolved quickly, the downtime they prompt can prove devastating. While cost estimates vary, a report from Netscout suggests that the average company loses $218,339 during DDoS attacks.
As the digital environment changes, the nature of DDoS is evolving as well. These attacks are not about to go away, but they will likely look quite a bit different in the years to come. Already, such incidents are increasingly focused on Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which often lack the extensive protection granted to standard desktop computers. Unfortunately, IoT devices often act as soft access points, making their recent emphasis as DDoS targets all the more concerning.
In a rapidly changing digital landscape, it is more important than ever to seek protection against the many threats posed by DDoS attacks. While these can be difficult to predict, certain measures endure in their ability to keep attackers at bay. The following are among the most effective options for reducing the risk of – and properly responding to – DDoS incidents.
Monitor Web Traffic Thoroughly
Awareness is critical when assessing and responding to DDoS threats. The earlier malicious traffic is detected, the sooner it can be dealt with. In the best-case scenario, problematic digital interactions will be handled promptly and without compromising ordinary traffic.Attacks nearly always occur without warning, so monitoring systems should be sophisticated enough to catch potential problems as early as possible. In today’s risk-filled environment, even a few minutes can make a huge difference.
Ideal DDoS protection efforts will incorporate advanced mitigation systems that use high-powered screening technology to scan all incoming trafficthoroughly. If the potential for malicious activity is detected, it can be blocked long before vulnerable servers are compromised.
There’s no need to worry about the potential for DDoS monitoring to disrupt the typical flow of traffic. As traffic is closely observed, authorized visitors will continue to enjoy smooth service free of disruptions.
The proactive nature of web traffic monitoring is far preferable to waiting for customer complaints or other alerts that, in addition to occurring far too late for comfort, may convince targeted individuals or businesses that servers or hosting providers are down. Under this problematic approach, valuable time may be wasted conducting tests, only to find that DDoS attackers are to blame. If, however, traffic is caught early through monitoring efforts, it can be dealt with quickly to minimize downtime and associated damage.
Use a Content Distribution Network
A content distribution network (CDN) can be a powerful tool for reducing the risk of DDoS attacks. Sometimes called a “content delivery network,” this concept refers to groups of servers that are strategically situated in a variety of geographic regions.Despite their physical distribution spanning thousands of miles, CDN servers work together to ensure that critical internet content is delivered quickly and reliably. They should not be confused with hosting, which occurs separately from content distribution. That being said, some CDNs cache content to improve website performance.
While many people and even business owners are entirely unaware of the role CDNs play in the modern makeup of the internet, these groups of servers are largely responsible for the effective servicing of traffic for some of today’s most notable websites. Top examples include Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix. All rely on CDNs to ensure swift load times and the best possible performance, regardless of the current traffic.CDNs promise to improve speed while also addressing key security concerns. Even in the absence of DDoS attacks, these networks can handle sudden fluctuations in website traffic to ensure that critical content is available to internet users at all times.
In the midst of DDoS incidents, CDNs play a critical function by providing a much-needed layer of network infrastructure. What’s more, advanced security features are often built into these networks, which can take advantage of automated countermeasures to reduce the impact of any particular attack. Keep in mind, however, that while CDNs can form a valuable component of multi-layered protection strategies, they should not be relied upon to protect against DDoS attacks on their own. Rather, they can be built into a comprehensive protocol to provide greater peace of mind.
Create a Detailed Response Plan
Preventative efforts are crucial, of course, but what happens if attackers manage to target key networks? Unfortunately, this possibility cannot be entirely ruled out, especially as modern DDoS attackers grow more sophisticated. While the right tools and frameworks will significantly reduce the risk of attack, it would be foolish not to plan for the worst-case scenario.
Detailed DDoS response plans can determine a given system’s potential for catching and quickly responding to incidents – or whether the inability to contain such attacks may lead to complete devastation. An ideal plan will cover a variety of critical considerations, including:
- The upstream and downstream flow of communication during an attack. Contact procedures should be developed to ensure that the appropriate parties are reached quickly.
- The ability to identify and classify specific DDoS attacks. This increases the likelihood of response efforts being appropriately targeted based on the nature of the incident at hand. Ideally, the origin of the attack can also be traced.
- Implementation of a comprehensive toolkit in which multiple options can be leveraged to resolve attacks.
Protective efforts and response plans should also include post-attack analysis. After all, future DDoS efforts are likely. However, each attempt or successful breach can serve as a valuable learning experience – and a critical opportunity to bolster defenses before the next incident.
Many mitigation services provide detailed records of attacks. This insight can be drawn upon to fine-tune protective measures and reduce the risk of future problems.
DDoS protection and mitigation may be a struggle even for today’s largest and seemingly best-protected organizations, but the situation is far from hopeless. A proactive approach that incorporates CDNs, mitigation services, and detailed response plans can make all the difference.
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