For over a decade, the unprecedented digital transformation lead enterprises to invest on their cyber resilience, based on investments on cyber security measures and technologies. Such investments are a key prerequisite for protecting modern organizations from various types of cyber-attacks. One of the most sophisticated types of cyber-attacks is the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). In the scope of a DDoS attack, a malicious party attempts to overwhelm a networked resource (e.g., website, networked services) with a flood of internet traffic towards making it unavailable to its users. Most DDoS attacks use one or more networks of compromised computers (e.g., botnets) to flood the target resource with a large amount of traffic. The traffic can combine data from different types of traffic such as HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) requests, UDP (User Datagram Protocol) packets (i.e., udp flood), ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) packets, and more.
The impact of DDoS attacks on both individuals and organizations can be devastating. For instance, DDoS attacks can lead to loss of revenue, reputation damage, and legal issues (e.g., liabilities relating to sensitive data). In recent years, many enterprises have suffered such consequences due to notorious attacks against their infrastructures. As a prominent example, back in 2016, a DDoS attack was launched against Dyn, a company that provides internet services such as DNS (Domain Name Service). The attack caused widespread internet disruption that affected some of world’s most popular websites, including Twitter, Reddit, and Netflix. The DDoS attack against Dyn leveraged a botnet of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including cameras and router. As another example, a DDoS attack against the GitHub code-sharing website took place in 2018 and was (at that time) recorded as the largest scale attack in history.
Many DDoS attacks have also taken place during the last couple of years. For instance, in 2020, DDoS attacks were launched against the CloudFlare cloud security company, as well as against the Akamai content-based network. More recently i.e., in 2021, novel DDoS attacks against DNS providers of the US East Coast took place. The attacks leveraged an innovative approach to amplify the traffic, which was conveniently characterized as ‘reflection amplification’. This innovation is indicative of the constantly evolving nature of DDoS attacks and organizations need to stay informed about the latest attack methods. As a first step to confronting DDoS attacks, individuals and organizations must be aware of the challenging nature of DDoS attacks and of the risks associated with them.
DDoS attacks are very difficult to prevent, which makes them very popular among hackers’ communities. Specifically, organizations have hard times identifying and confronting DDoS attacks for the following reasons:
One of the most important steps to confronting a DDoS attack is to detect its type in order to organize the cyber defense accordingly. The most prominent types of DDoS attacks include:
The above list of DDoS attack types is by no means exhaustive. DDoS attacks are constantly evolving, and new types of attacks are being developed all the time.
In conclusion, DDoS attacks are among the most popular methods used by hackers to attack modern digital infrastructures and organizations. These attacks are gradually becoming more sophisticated and harder to prevent. Developing a successful cyber-defense to these attacks requires a multi-layered approach, including a combination of network-based, cloud-based, and application-layer protection measures. Moreover, organizations must develop effective incident response plans for DDoS attacks. Having such plans in place can enable them to quickly respond to DDoS attacks, which is crucial for minimizing their impact.
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