Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks try to overwhelm a network by flooding it with traffic. They have been a persistent cyber threat since the late 1990s and have grown in complexity over this time. Fortunately, the strategies for DDoS mitigation have also improved. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know about them.
DDoS mitigation can essentially be divided into two parts. These are prevention and cure. Both are important because the reality is that prevention is never guaranteed to succeed. Businesses, therefore, have to work on the assumption that they will fall victim to DDoS attacks. They hence need to have a strategy for curing them.
There are two main components to the prevention side of DDoS mitigation. These are infrastructure and monitoring. The monitoring part of DDoS mitigation can be outsourced to an independent DDoS mitigation service. The infrastructure side, by contrast, has to be managed in-house. With that said, however, it may involve the use of third-party services.
Achieving DDoS mitigation through infrastructure generally requires combining bandwidth with intelligent use of resources. Your bandwidth essentially buys you time to deal with the underlying problem. Your intelligent use of resources enables you to neutralize the threat. It’s therefore vital to build resilience against DDoS attacks into the design of your network.
The development of the cloud really has changed the game for DDoS mitigation. Before there were clouds, businesses could only leverage their own on-premises infrastructure. This means that they had to deal with a balancing act that could be very challenging.
On the one hand, they could build in extra network capacity. This gave them a higher level of protection against DDoS attacks but at a higher cost. On the other hand, they could make their networks leaner. This reduced their cost but also left them more vulnerable to DDoS attacks.
Now businesses can leverage public cloud service providers (CSPs) to access infrastructure on demand. This brings huge benefits. There are, however, two important points businesses need to keep in mind.
The first is that you want to avoid scrambling to set up infrastructure in the middle of a DDoS attack. That means you need to have a clear and realistic plan set up in advance. The second is that the cost of the public cloud is directly linked to your usage of it. That means the longer you take to resolve a DDoS attack, the more financial damage it will do you.
Your baseline for DDoS mitigation is a robust, layered cybersecurity defense. Measures with particular relevance to DDoS mitigation include:
Virtual private networks (VPNs)
Intrusion detection and prevention systems
Your next step is to invest in hardware with high-quality traffic-management capabilities. These are useful at any time. They are invaluable if you come under a DDoS attack. If you plan to manage your own DDoS mitigation, you will need enough capacity to handle this. Alternatively, you can use a specialist DDoS mitigation service.
Finally, you will need to get to know (and manage) your own traffic. This will help to give you a head start on separating it from malicious traffic in the event of a DDoS attack. It will also help you to use your own resources more effectively under business-as-usual conditions.
The cure side of DDoS migration, more properly known as incident response, is essentially an exercise in damage limitation. There are three parts to it. These are threat neutralization, communication, and learn and prevent.
Thanks to the cloud, threat neutralization is usually a two-step process. First, you increase your bandwidth. If you need to be careful about costs, you do this strategically. This means that you prioritize your most important traffic. For example, you make sure that customer-facing services continue to work as normal.
Secondly, you work on cleaning your traffic. If you are using an external DDoS mitigation service, you will redirect traffic to them. They will scrub it clean and return it to you. If you are managing your DDoS defense yourself, you will have to analyze your own traffic. The better you know your traffic patterns, the easier this will be.
Communication is about sending the right messages to the right people at the right time and in the right way. Ideally, your DDoS mitigation should be so effective that only key stakeholders would need to know about it.
In the real world, however, there is definitely the possibility that your services will slow down enough to be noticed. If they do, then you need to think about communicating with general employees and/or the public. Keep in mind that anything you say to regular employees could very possibly find its way into the public domain.
Learn and prevent should always be the final step in any incident-response situation. This includes incidents related to DDoS mitigation.
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