This post introduces a 3 part series we are doing covering distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and helping organizations prepare for them. The series will cover 3 parts, Prepare, Defend and Respond.
Part 1 of 3 – Prepare.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks use networks of compromised computers (botnets) or web servers (brobots) to flood organization websites with so much traffic that it causes them to fail. This is especially worrying for financial institutions and utilities which rely so very heavily on the availability of their services and controls. DDoS attacks are also mounted by attackers to hide fraud or other hacking activities being perpetrated on networks. Although these types of attacks are not new, they are presently increasing in frequency and especially in sophistication. Application layer DDoS attacks do a good job of mimicking normal network traffic and recent DDoS attacks have been measured at a huge 65 Gb (nearly 10 times the previous high point). The purpose of this blog is to discuss some methods small organizations can employ to properly prepare for DDoS attacks. (Later articles in this series will discuss means for defending against and responding to these attacks).
The first thing any organization should do in this effort is proper pre-planning. Ensure that DDoS is included in your risk assessment and controls planning efforts. Include reacting to these attacks in your incident response and business continuity plans. And as with all such plans, conduct practice exercises and adjust your plans according to their results. In all our years in business, MSI has never participated in a table top incident responce or disaster recovery exercise that didn’t expose planning flaws and produce valuable lessons learned.
Next, your organization should consider DDoS when choosing an ISP. It helps immensely to have an Internet provider that has enough resources and expertise to properly assist if your organization is targeted for one of these attacks. Ensure that you develop a close relationship with your ISP too – communicate your needs and expectations clearly, and find out from them exactly what their capabilities and services really are.
Finally on the preparation side of the problem, make sure that you keep well informed about DDoS and the actual threat level it poses to your organization. Keep active in user groups and professional organizations. Use the net to gather intelligence. The Financial Service Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has plenty of useful and up to date information on DDoS. You can even turn the World Wide Web against the enemy and use it to gather intelligence on them!
–This article series is written by John Davis of MSI.
PS – This is NOT a problem you can “purchase your way out” of. Organizations can’t and should not buy huge amounts of bandwidth as a preparation for DDoS. The cost impacts of such purchases are not effective, nor is bandwidth size an effective control in most cases. Note that some technology solutions for packet scrubbing and the like do exist. Your milage may vary with these solutions. MSI has not reviewed or tested any of the DDoS technology products as a part of this series.