What is DDoS?
Any organisation that uses the Internet to conduct its core business runs the risk of loss of business, revenue and reputation if its systems are no longer available. DDoS attacks pose an ever-increasing threat to businesses that are reliant on the Internet for service availability. Some types of online businesses are more likely to suffer from such attacks than others. However, all will recognise that there is a risk that their business and its revenue will be compromised without some sort of DDoS protection service.
‘Distributed Denial of Service’, aka DDoS attacks, attempts to make a computer or network device unavailable or at least disrupt its function or service. They are categorised as ‘distributed’ because the attacks aren’t generated by a single attack host, but distributed over several hosts, usually a so-called botnet.
What to look out for
There are three main categories of attacks
A state attack bombards the target with massive numbers of connection attempts and may try to keep them active. The target host and infrastructure cannot cope with such a large number of sessions, limits are reached, and it simply stops responding to requests, rendering it useless.
A volumetric attack sends extreme volumes of traffic in an attempt to completely saturate the target’s connections, effectively muscling out further legitimate traffic.
Sometimes other, often legitimate servers on the Internet are co-used for these types of attacks. This is becoming an increasingly popular method of attack. In such cases, special requests are sent to the target servers. It then uses specific functions to have the legitimate host send massive amounts of traffic back in response to what it believes is the requesting source, but it is in fact the attack destination. These are known as amplification or reflection attacks.
Application attacks identify weaknesses in applications and are used to either retrieve sensitive information, crash applications or abuse them for nefarious purposes such as gaining full access to the host on which the application resides or other hosts within the set-up.
DDoS attacks are unfortunately a fact of life, with the frequency, size and sophistication of attacks increasing each year. It is not unusual to see packet requests of between 2.4m and 7.5m per second. DDoS attacks can have serious implications for both service providers and enterprises.
From the victim’s perspective a DDoS attack can render their Internet connection or targeted host(s) useless within seconds, effectively disconnecting them from their customers, prospects and partners.
An online company’s business is all about being able to reliably and consistently deliver an increasing array and volume of content types to its users without any degradation to service quality.
Solving the problem
Every customer has specific needs and requirements. This can be on a functional level, and the type of solution required is often specific to the type of organisation. Some deviations seen in practice:
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) tend to have a detailed view of their traffic and manual programming of the anti-DDoS solution is accepted practice. Protection against volumetric and state attacks is of high importance and in-line solutions are usually preferred, often with cloud services.
Enterprise networks, depending on their size, tend to vary between either more comprehensive data centre protection or are focused on the full mix of data centre and office. Usually, in-line solutions are preferred although some cases provide more efficiency when they are redirect based. Cloud services are relatively popular amongst larger organisations.
Service Provider Networks
Service provider (SP) networks usually require holistic solutions and are redirect based due to high or very high capacity. When hosting critical services within their own data centres or delivering connectivity for customer data centres, some SPs like to expand this with an additional layer of inline solutions in front of these deployments. Also, in some cases DDoS protection is offered as a paid or managed service.
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