Threats abound in today’s digital world. From viruses to malware, problems lurk around every corner. Even the best-equipped organizations struggle to keep these issues at bay, as evidenced by the security breaches that hit headlines frequently. Without comprehensive security protocol, it is much more difficult for enterprises to protect their data from today’s greatest threats.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, in particular, are worth considering, as they can cause extreme financial losses and irreparable harm to the victim’s reputation. Read on to learn more about these devastating attacks and how they can be prevented.
What Are DDoS Attacks & Why Are They So Dangerous?
Before implementing DDoS protection, it’s important to understand what these attacks are – and the extent of the damage they could cause. In many ways DDoS attacks resemble Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, which aim to shut down devices or networks, thereby rendering them inaccessible to legitimate users.
DDoS attacks hold the same general goal as their DoS counterparts, but with one key difference – distribution. As the extra adjective ‘distributed’ indicates, DDoS attacks originate from several sources that are carefully coordinated to ensure the victim is flooded with traffic. These attacks typically involve many devices and internet connections. Often, DDoS attacks are performed by botnets. These consist of vast networks of infected devices intended for sending spam, stealing data, and otherwise wreaking havoc on unsuspecting users.
Unfortunately, DDoS attacks cause widespread devastation in the digital world. A notable Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company survey of business executives indicates that 35 percent of companies have suffered DDoS attacks within the past year. Unfortunately, few are equipped to keep attackers at bay or limit the damage of these digital catastrophes.
The extent of the damage depends largely on how long attackers are able to render servers inaccessible. In some cases, they have succeeded for up to a full 24 hours. This prompts not only financial devastation but also irreparable damage to the victim’s hard-earned reputation. Therefore, DDoS attacks often ensure considerable short-term and long-term losses.
How to Prevent DDoS Attacks
Luckily, a variety of preventative measures can be enacted to limit the damage DDoS attacks impart – or, better yet, stop them from occurring in the first place. A successful security effort will involve a layered approach, in which a variety of strategies are implemented to address several potential sources of trouble.
A few of the best options are outlined below:
Amp Up Bandwidth
Many organizations struggle to determine how much bandwidth they require – and ultimately, many are too conservative. Not only does this provide limited room to grow, but this approach could also prove devastating in the event of a DDoS attack. When enterprises lack bandwidth, attackers can cause widespread damage with minimal effort. Keep in mind, however, that while additional bandwidth can provide a solid foundation for DDoS protection, it won’t prevent widescale damage on its own.
Make the Most of Web Application Firewalls
Web application firewalls (WAF) can provide valuable protection for the enterprises that are most vulnerable to DDoS attacks. This tool forms a shield between web applications and the internet at large, filtering and monitoring traffic as necessary to avoid many types of attacks. In most cases, WAFs can successfully filter out malicious traffic. Better yet, WAF rules (known as policies) can be quickly implemented to respond to specific attacks as they become evident. Because they are so effective, WAFs are increasingly employed by a variety of organizations seeking to protect their dedicated servers from DoS and DDoS attacks.
Seek Geographic Distribution and Load Balancing
Geographic distribution is an often forgotten, but highly valuable option for limiting the damage of DDoS attacks. If data is exclusively based on a single server, each attack will prove that much more devastating. Load balancing, however, can ensure that, in the event of an attack, the damage is considerably restricted. With load balancing, organizations under attack are capable of quickly rerouting traffic to other servers. This makes it far more difficult for attackers to exhaust the victim’s resources. The more redundancy enterprises can build into servers, the more DDoS attackers will struggle to target vulnerable resources.
Determine Which Situations Actually Call for Increased Traffic
In an effort to curb DDoS attacks, some companies go overboard, assuming that all increases in traffic should be cause for alarm. However, in reality, traffic will ebb and flow over time. Some spikes are perfectly natural, so long as they don’t completely debilitate the network. By carefully monitoring traffic and determining how it changes at specific times or in response to certain circumstances, companies can better prepare for legitimate increases. This method can also help them determine if sudden traffic changes might represent oncoming DDoS attacks.
Specifically, this monitoring should highlight when traffic tends to increase and where it typically originates. For example, sudden increases in traffic can be expected for retail sites during the holiday season. However, unprecedented traffic spikes at random hours and originating from unfamiliar countries should be cause for concern.
Develop Communication Workflows
Despite the best efforts, many enterprises will ultimately succumb to DDoS attacks. Those that have prepared detailed response plans, however, are less likely to suffer extreme effects. Ideally, such strategies will highlight the responsibilities each team member will hold in the event of an attack. Response procedures will also dictate how employees will communicate with one another to ensure the most effective solution possible. Likewise, it’s important to develop lines of communication with clients or customers who might be impacted, so that they’re aware of potential issues with performance. This proactive approach can limit the reputational damage that often accompanies DDoS attacks.
Always Opt for a Proactive Approach
Unfortunately, no one tactic alone can prevent all DoS and DDoS attacks. Successful prevention is most likely when enterprises take a proactive approach involving comprehensive, layered security. Preventative efforts should address not only how DDoS attacks can be avoided, but also what a swift response may look like if such protocol falls through. When it comes to cyber threats, a beefed-up security plan can make all the difference.
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