Cyber security has become a hot issue in the digital world today. Businesses and organizations are increasingly investing in securing their sensitive information and discovering new ways to protect digital assets. Businesses and the service industry have witnessed a drastic increase in denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, costing businesses over $400 billion every year. This article provides a detailed overview of DDoS attacks, detection techniques, and various ways to mitigate the risks of such attacks.
What are DDoS Attacks?
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is among the most common types of cybersecurity breaches. In such an attack, a team of hackers operating from distributed locations uses intelligent algorithms and physical devices to overload a web server with millions of connection requests per second. In turn, the web server fails to handle such an overwhelming number of results, and the website or web server crashes, rendering the website offline. After a successful DDoS attack, hackers exploit the inaccessibility of websites and penetrate the network and database to steal sensitive information. Users, business stakeholders, and customers fail to access websites or databases, causing millions of dollars in loss to businesses.
Who Can Help?
With a growing security risk in the digital economy, organizations have now started hiring dedicated teams of cybersecurity professionals to monitor network activity and employ state-of-the-art security mechanisms to mitigate risks.
Suppose you’re seeking a career in cybersecurity. In that case, you can register with cybersecurity master’s programs on-campus and online. Cybersecurity experts are certified professionals with a keen knowledge of data security protocols, encryption and decryption, network security, and the implementation of firewalls. Some credible universities, like Northern Kentucky University, offer a 30-credit-hour online master’s degree in cybersecurity with a 12-month program duration. An online degree is the best option for professionals and fresh graduates alike. It gives them the freedom to focus on their jobs and simultaneously equip themselves with the latest knowledge and expertise to protect data from malicious attacks.
The frequency of cyberattacks has increased the demand for cybersecurity professionals. It is a promising career path with perpetual growth and rewarding benefits. Suppose you’re tech-savvy with a keen interest in cybersecurity. In that case, you should explore your options with a professional degree in cybersecurity and cryptography.
How to Detect and Mitigate a Possible Distributed Denial of Service Attack
The year 2022 witnessed the biggest DDoS attack. When Google Cloud’s security algorithms successfully turned down an active DDoS attack with over 46 million requests per second.
Ideally, more than 10-15 HTTP connection requests per second are considered a potential DoS or DDoS attack. It is vital to monitor and detect potential DDoS attacks early enough so you can effectively protect your website or servers from them and block any unauthorized connection requests as soon as possible. There’s no better way to deal with a DDoS attack than intercepting an active DDoS attempt. Here are some red flags of an active DDoS attack:
- The website is slow in responding to queries.
- Abnormal increase in web traffic in episodes.
- An overwhelming number of connection requests from a set of IPs within a short timeframe. Either particular IPs send too many connection requests, or there is a peculiar pattern of hundreds of IPs bombarding the web server with an abnormally high amount of requests.
- Your website is showing a 503 error. This error occurs when a web server attempts to handle connection requests more than its maximum capacity. It’s normal for websites to show this error during peak access hours, and it goes away as soon as the traffic density decreases. However, if the error persists for longer, it may indicate an active DDoS attack.
- Web traffic from specific IPs keeps requesting the same type of data even after the expiration of the server request time.
Here are three methods for detecting and monitoring a potential DDoS attack:
- Continuous Monitoring
Continuous monitoring allows remote security professionals to use AI-powered tools to actively monitor a local area network and associated web servers and firewalls. In continuous monitoring services, system security professionals can actively spot and deal with potential problems and manage data vulnerability and network security issues. The security professionals immediately inform the IT staff of the concerned organization about any changes in an organization’s network that a hacker may exploit. In turn, the concerned authorities take appropriate and prompt action to mitigate or turn down the attack.
- Intrusion Detection System
Intrusion detection systems are specialized software or hardware tools that actively monitor network traffic, detect abnormal activity, and identify potential security threats. Intrusion detection systems use AI-based algorithms to ‘sense’ any unusual network activity and detect an active DoS or DDoS attack. There are primarily three types of detection techniques that these tools employ: signature-based detection techniques, anomaly-based detection, and hybrid detection. These techniques use special algorithms to identify unusual network activity and detect any ongoing attacks.
Signature-based detection is ideally used for detecting identifiable security risks. Signature-based detection usually works with network signatures and detects any changes in these signatures. It uses blockchain technology for this purpose. Suppose there are any significant changes in the network signature or an unusual amount of network connections associated with it. In that case, the intrusion detection system blocks the IPs to turn down a possible DDoS attack.
On the other hand, anomaly-based detection techniques rely on a normalized baseline – a standard amount of connection requests that a website is expected to receive without crashing or slowing down. This normalized baseline is used as a comparison point for all network activity developed through machine learning.
A hybrid technique can actively detect known and unknown security threats and active attacks. While hybrid detection mechanisms are still under discussion, they are essentially a mix of signature-based and anomaly-based methods. The purpose of hybrid methods is to overcome the vulnerabilities and shortcomings of signature-based and anomaly-based detection methods.
- Web Application Firewall
Web application firewalls (WAF) are one of the most effective techniques for protection against a possible DDoS attack. WAF adds a layer of protection to your website, detects abnormal connection requests or unauthorized IPs, and instantly blocks their access to the website or web server. The use of cloud technology and the benefit of a remote firewall have significantly decreased the probability of a successful DDoS attempt. In a managed firewall service, a third-party security service provider monitors and maintains a web application firewall from a remote location and is responsible for the upkeep and upgradation of WAF.
WAF ensures the availability of websites and minimum downtime. Using a managed WAF service, an organization can swiftly counter any active DDoS attack attempts, regardless of the number of requests.
DoS and DDoS attacks are becoming more frequent, creating an increasing digital security crisis. With proper security mechanisms, updated network management, intrusion detection systems, and the installation of web application firewalls, organizations can promptly detect an active DDoS attack. After successfully detecting the threat, they take appropriate measures to mitigate such an attack, secure sensitive organizational data, and ensure maximum uptime.