DDoS defence: Is your network protected?

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been growing in both size and sophistication.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been growing in both size and sophistication. In the last month, two high-profile DDoS attacks reached more than 600 Gbps and 1 Tbps. Both attacks were ranked among the largest DDoS attacks on record.

The ferocity of these attacks have indicated that this trend is only set to increase in the near future. DDoS attacks can impact businesses of all types and sizes. Retail stores, enterprises and service providers can all find themselves at threat of the DDoS crosshairs. According to a recent report that we commissioned- the A10 Networks IDG Connect report - everyone is a target, but some types of businesses come under fire more frequently.

Entertainment and gambling are targeted the most, with 33 per cent of DDoS attacks aimed at that industry, followed by advertising media and Web content (28 per cent), and traditional and online retail (22 per cent). The financial impact of DDoS attacks for businesses can be severe and a recent Ponemon Institute study revealed that between 2011 and 2016, the costs associated with a DDoS attack swelled by 31 per cent, with some larger attacks exceeding $2 million due to lost revenue, business disruption and other hard costs. Brand and reputation damage, can also have a lasting effect which cannot be financially measured.

The IDG Connect report found the average company suffers 15 DDoS attacks per year (some averaging as many as 25 DDoS attacks annually), and the average attack causes at least 17 hours of disruption, whether that’s downtime, latency, denied customer access or crashes. That’s 255 hours of disruption a year, can businesses afford this level of interruption? I suspect not.

To be properly prepared, businesses must brace for the worst-case scenario. The following points below outline four main steps in prevention to ensure networks can stand up to a DDoS attack:

  • Be proactive. Do not wait for a major crash. You may already be experiencing attacks with slowed or blocked customer access, which can result in lost sales or dissatisfied customers.
  • Beware of the “world of denial.” Ask tough questions. What do your customer satisfaction metrics reveal? Do you see indicators of lost sales? What’s the real cost of service restoration?
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Invest in sufficient DDoS protection and mitigation solutions early, before a major attack strikes.
  • Defend against all vectors. Consider dedicated multi-vector DDoS protection using in-path mitigation, coupled with integrated threat intelligence, for the best accuracy. Include hybrid protection with a cloud-bursting service as an extra precaution to combat volumetric attacks. 

Businesses of all sizes need to be able to detect and mitigate DDoS attacks (particularly 'multi-vector' ones that simultaneously attack the bandwidth, application and network layers). This is all the more important because, as mentioned earlier, we have all seen that major DDoS attacks are taking place – and growing exponentially in size – on a weekly basis these days. Not only are the implications of this profound but also a common thread has emerged: these attacks are leveraging botnets comprising hundreds of thousands of unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Security researchers have warned that improperly secured IoT devices are more frequently being used to launch DDoS attacks. With industry analysts expecting IoT usage to grow substantially the issue is coming into ever more sharper focus. Businesses need to be aware that all types of devices potentially pose a risk which can have huge implications. Going back briefly to the Ponemon research some of the key findings really bring home the extent of the problem. 

From the research in which 1,023 IT and IT security practitioners in North America and EMEA participated one of the most frightening takeaways was that organisations are highly concerned that they aren’t able to detect and stop encrypted attacks, but aren’t sure where to start or how best to defend their business.

Clearly a lot needs to be done within the industry to protect against cyber security threats. My advice to readers is don’t let your network remain unprotected against such attacks which are only set to rise and could cost you dearly in the long run.

Duncan Hughes, Systems Engineering Director, EMEA, A10 Networks

Photo Credit: Duc Dao / Shutterstock