Three ways to prevent a DDoS disaster this Black Friday

Black Friday will be a big day for retailers — and hopefully for all the right reasons.

Some of the biggest shopping days of the year are upon us. But while retailers are focused on ensuring that they cope with huge peaks in online and in-store sales, are they as prepared as they need to be to defend against major distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks?

Avoiding a cyber-crime catastrophe

Black Friday is here (along with the increasingly popular Cyber Monday). As ever, crowds of shoppers will flock to retailers’ stores and websites in search of rock-bottom prices. And this will mean a huge increase in sales for both physical and online stores.

Black Friday may be a sales bonanza but it’s also a period of high vulnerability that criminals could exploit to maximise the threat to a retailer’s business. With Christmas sales accounting for a sizeable chunk of most retailers’ annual revenues, from a criminal’s perspective, there could hardly be a better time to launch a cyber attack. What’s more, with systems already creaking under the load of peak volumes, it might not take much of a straw to break the camel’s back.

The last thing a retailer wants is for their business to spectacularly and very visibly come to a sudden halt because they can’t defend against and mitigate a major distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Retailers face a growing threat

Talk of cyber attacks are more than mere scaremongering – the threat is very real. For example, in September, the release of the Mirai code — a piece of malware that infects IoT devices enabling them to be used for DDoS attacks — opened a Pandora’s box of opportunities for ruthless cyber entrepreneurs who want to disrupt their target markets and exploit the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of companies who honestly serve their customers.

This code gives criminals the ability to orchestrate legions of unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices to act as unwitting participants in targeted DDoS attacks. These objects could be anything from domestic hubs and routers, to printers and digital video recorders — as long as they’re connected to the internet. The latest large DDoS attacks have used botnets just like this — proving that the bad guys are multiplying and, perhaps, gearing up for bigger things.

Prevention is better than the cure

There are no easy answers to the question of how to secure IoT smart devices — especially at the ‘budget conscious’ end of the market. That’s why we expect that these DDoS attacks will continue to proliferate, meaning that targeted DDoS attacks of increasing scale and frequency will almost certainly occur as a result.

So how can retailers defend themselves against the threat of an attack on Black Friday? Organisations have to use a combination of measures to safeguard against even the most determined DDoS attack. These include:

  • Limiting the impact of an attack by absorbing DDoS traffic targeted at the application layer, deflecting all DDoS traffic targeted at the network layer and authenticating valid traffic at the network edge.
  • Choosing an ISP that connects directly to large carriers and other networks, as well as internet exchanges — allowing traffic to pass efficiently.
  • Employing the services of a network-based DDoS provider — with a demonstrable track record of mitigating DDoS attacks and sinking significant data floods. This will safeguard specific IP address ranges that organisations want to protect.

Black Friday will be a big day for retailers — and hopefully for all the right reasons. But in an increasingly digital world, consideration needs to be given to the IT infrastructure that underpins today’s retail business and the security strategy that protects it.

Luke Beeson, vice president of security, BT’s global banking and financial markets 

Image source: Shutterstock/Vik Y