DDoS Attacks: How to Prevent Them from Harming Your Organization

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Stop DDoS attacks!

DDoS attacks are on the rise. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, Kaspersky’s DDoS Intelligence Detection System found 91,052 DDoS attacks. This is four and a half times more than in the first quarter of 2021. Many reasons, such as wars and geopolitical changes, contributed to this increase. Due to this shocking increase in attacks, you must take additional measures to help prevent them in the first place. I can help you with that!

In this article, I’ll talk about several different strategies you can use to help prevent DDoS attacks from harming your organization. In the end, I’ll highlight some aspects for you to consider when choosing an appropriate anti-DDoS security tool.

For starters, let’s look at the different strategies you can implement to prevent a DDoS attack.

How You Can Prevent DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks are clearly detrimental for your network. And it isn’t easy to prevent them. However, I’ve compiled a list of 13 things you can do to help you stop DDoS attacks. 

1. Set up a Multi-Layered DDoS Protection System

DDoS attacks often occur at layers 3, 4, or 7 of the OSI model. These are the network, transport, and application layers respectively. 

Typically, a DDoS attack at layers 3 and 4 targets the infrastructure. Then, it slows down or crashes the system. Ping flood, Ping of Death, and Smurf attacks are some of the common attacks cybercriminals perform in these two layers. 

Layer 7, or the application layer, handles the HTTP requests. This makes it vulnerable to DDoS attacks, as cybercriminals can severely damage it with minimal bandwidth. Since layer 7 uses both server and network resources, a simple HTTP request flood is enough to take the application down.

To protect your organization, set up a multi-layered DDoS protection system through firewalls. You can do this using intelligent rulesets that dynamically check the data packets based on the configured rules. Accordingly, the firewalls will take action in blocking or allowing a packet entry into your network. 

2. Organize a DDoS Attack Response Plan 

Despite the best-laid plans and security measures, a DDoS attack can still occur at any time. This is why an attack response plan is important. If a DDoS attack does occur, you can easily mitigate its impact on your organization.

Your plan must have extensive documentation. It should also have a clear assignment of responsibilities to different teams and/or employees. The response plan consists of 4 steps:

Step 1: Preparation

This is the most research-intensive step where you map out the areas that’ll be most affected by a DDoS attack. Establish contacts among different teams and define the procedures for a streamlined response. Make sure you have the necessary tools in place as well such as a network vulnerability scanner, a tracking and ticketing tool, etc.

Step 2: Analysis

Once your preparation is in place, keep monitoring your network. Watch out for signs of a DDoS attack. When an attack occurs, determine its type as this has a bearing on the areas it’ll affect. Then, inform the concerned employees and determine the scope of the attack.

Step 3: Mitigation

Once you’ve analyzed the attack’s severity, start implementing the plan that you laid out earlier in step 1. Do this ASAP to mitigate the impact of the attack on your organization’s infrastructure.

Step 4: Documentation and Revision

Finally, document the incident. Then, critically review what went right and wrong during the attack. Accordingly, make any changes needed to your master response plan. In turn, you can be better prepared for future attacks. Now, let’s move on to discussing DDoS mitigation strategies.

3. Profile Network Traffic and Packets Continuously

A good way to identify a DDoS attack and mitigate its impact is through continuous traffic and packet profiling. You can do this by setting up a next-generation firewall (NGFW). These firewalls profile every data packet and the nature of traffic entering your network. They even come with Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS). In turn, they can block malicious traffic from entering your network. Moreover, they can send you alerts to notify you of a DDoS attack, so you can easily mitigate any severe impact.

4. Reduce Attack Surface Exposure

An attack surface is a list of vulnerabilities that can make DDoS attacks more likely. Generally, you should keep the attack surface area small. This will reduce the chances of an attack. To do this, you can streamline access management. Specifically, restrict any direct access to critical infrastructure such as your database servers. 

5. Understand the Warning Signs

Even the most sophisticated attacks can get detected with the appropriate monitoring. Make sure you configure your alerts so that they notify you of any warning signs and the context around them. This helps you take the necessary actions quickly in the case of an attack.

Image of a round warning sign with a diagonal in the middle. Inside it is a silhouette of a man with his hand showing the stop sign.
Say stop! to DDoS attacks.

6. Perform a Network Vulnerability Assessment

Conduct network vulnerability assessments periodically. These assessments review and analyze your organization’s network and security. You can use them to identify any cybersecurity vulnerabilities and loopholes. It’s possible to do this manually, but it’s highly recommended for you to use a network vulnerability tool such as Wireshark, Aircrack, Nikto, and more. 

7. Set up a WAF

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is an application firewall that monitors HTTP traffic. It can prevent any malicious traffic from entering your network. These firewalls also greatly reduce the chances of HTTP flood attacks. What’s more, they can even protect your network from layer 7 attacks. These tools also perform a deep data flow analysis to notify you of any security vulnerabilities in your network. 

8. Take Advantage of Redundant Servers

A redundant server isn’t connected to the internet. Basically, it’s a backup server you can use when the primary server is down. Having this server redundancy ensures that end-users are not affected even in the case of a DDoS attack.

9. Limit Network Broadcasting 

Network broadcasting is the maximum traffic that a network can broadcast. Any traffic that exceeds this limit gets dropped. Additionally, you can set the limits for network broadcasting based on your network’s traffic levels. As a result, the spike seen during a DDoS attack gets dropped. This ensures that DDoS attacks don’t exhaust your network resources.

10. Scale Up Your Bandwidth 

Another strategy is to scale up your bandwidth so that DDoS attacks don’t consume your resources. However, your scaling ability has a limit. Scaling up your bandwidth can also be a disadvantage. Essentially, you’ll be paying for the additional bandwidth used by cybercriminals to bring your system down. 

11. Take Advantage of Anti-DDoS Hardware and Software 

Multiple anti-DDoS hardware and software come with advanced features for DDoS mitigation. Examples include SolarWinds Security Event and Indusface App Trana. They also come with the required hardware and software to handle these attacks. Take advantage of these if possible. 

12. Adopt Cloud-Based Service Providers

Consider using cloud-based service providers, as they’re responsible for mitigating DDoS attacks. Since this is their primary line of service, they likely use the latest tools and technologies to prevent these attacks. Here’s a bonus: you don’t have to spend any money and effort on DDoS mitigation. Basically, the cloud service provider takes care of that for you! 

13. Monitor Your Network Continuously

You must continuously monitor your network for vulnerabilities. This way, you can fix them right away. Furthermore, this continuous monitoring will help you identify the first signs of any DDoS attack. Accordingly, you can then implement your established response plan.

And there you go! These are some ways you can mitigate a DDoS attack. Often, you may have to use a combination of these strategies. Eventually, you should create a highly secure environment that can easily thwart DDoS attacks. 

Undoubtedly, a critical part of these strategies is using third-party DDoS mitigation services. These services can foolproof your network and inform you at the first warning sign.

But it isn’t easy to choose an appropriate DDoS mitigation service. Don’t worry, I’ll help you out. I’m going to show you the decision criteria you can use to help you decide on the right mitigation service for your organization.

Choosing a DDoS Mitigation Service

DDoS mitigation services come in many forms and varieties. This means you’ll have to choose the one that best fits your organization’s needs. Here are 3 criteria that you can use for this decision-making:

1. Scalability

Network capacity is a good benchmark to consider. That’s because it reflects your network’s scalability during an attack. For example, a 1 Tbps network can block one terabyte minus the bandwidth needed for regular operations.

Many service providers, especially those on the cloud, offer multi-Tbps capacity. If you go with these providers, your network will never get clogged during a DDoS attack. On a side note, please remember that this also comes at an additional cost, as you pay for what you use.

2. Flexibility

It’s always good to have flexible deployment options, so you can choose what you want. The DDoS mitigation service you choose can either be on-demand or always-on. An on-demand service is available only in the case of an attack. Conversely, an always-on deployment routes all packets through the server at all times. This flexibility can help your company, as you can choose an option that’s best suited from a financial and operational standpoint. 

3. Reliability 

Your service provider must be reliable and available at all times. As a result, consider the distance between your server and the provider’s endpoints. You should also examine the routing techniques used. For example, if you’re located in the UK and the servers are in Australia, every request has to travel through multiple networks. As a result, this can cause huge delays. This latency can also increase the chances of network clogging. Likewise, the service provider must use optimal routing techniques, so they’re fast and secure. 

While the above aspects aren’t part of an exhaustive list, they’re still critical in choosing a DDoS mitigation service. I hope this information helps you choose a service that’s well-suited for your organization. Here’s a quick recap. 

The Bottom Line

DDoS attacks are becoming more common today, and they can have a detrimental impact on your organization. Several strategies are at your disposal to prevent a DDoS attack. These strategies were all discussed in detail previously. Feel free to refer back to each strategy should you need to in the future. 

Most times, you’ll require a combination of two or more of these strategies to avoid/handle DDoS attacks. Finally, DDoS mitigation services are an integral part of your mitigation strategy. I’ve also described a few critical aspects to consider when choosing such a service. I hope all this information comes in handy to prevent DDoS attacks.

Do you have more questions about preventing DDoS attacks? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

Can I prevent a DDoS attack from happening?

Yes, you can do this using a combination of security strategies. These include limiting network capacity, setting up a firewall, continuous monitoring, and more. You can also leverage third-party tools such as SolarWinds to reduce the likelihood of DDoS attacks.

Can firewalls prevent a DDoS attack?

This depends on the attack’s complexity. Next-generation firewalls, such as KerioControl, can prevent simple and moderate DDoS attacks. However, these firewalls alone may not be enough for complex attacks. You may need more security strategies and tools that work in tandem with firewalls. 

What’s the best way to detect a DDoS attack?

Two strategies have proved to be useful in detecting DDoS attacks. The first is the continuous monitoring of all packets. The header and contents get examined for malicious content and compared against blocked lists. The second is traffic flow analysis that points to out-of-band detection, that is, extremely high levels of traffic. 

How long can DDoS attacks last?

DDoS attacks can last up to 24 hours, depending on the resources available for the cybercriminal. Having overall good communication and response strategies can help prevent these attacks.

Can I trace a DDoS attack?

It’s extremely difficult to trace a DDoS attack because it’s carried out by botnets distributed across a wide geographic area. However, by studying the attack’s architecture and patterns, you can get some information about its origins. 

Resources

TechGenix: Newsletters

Subscribe to our newsletters for more quality content.

TechGenix: Article on Different Types of DDoS Attacks

Know the different types of DDoS attacks.

TechGenix: Article on the Differences between DoS and DDoS attacks

Understand the differences between DoS and DDoS attacks.

TechGenix: Article on Preparing for a DDoS Attack

Learn more about how you can harden your infrastructure to prepare for a DDoS attack.

TechGenix: Article on Why DDoS Attacks Are Increasing

Read on to know why DDoS attacks are increasing.

TechGenix: Article on DDoS Standards for Your Cloud

Know more about adding DDoS standards to your cloud infrastructure. 

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