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What is DDoS Protection?

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack takes place when a bad actor overwhelms a server with malicious internet traffic to prevent legitimate users from accessing applications, services, and networks.

DDoS protection is extremely important because, if successful, a DDoS attack can wreak havoc on a company's reputation, even its finances. DDoS attacks can occur for several different reasons. One example is a reader or a group of readers launching an attack on a news service because they do not agree with the news organization's point of view. Another example is a DDoS attack on a popular e-commerce website to damage both the company's image and sales numbers. The longer the duration of the attack, the greater the magnitude of the damage.

Avoiding DDoS attacks is difficult because detection is also difficult. One sign that a DDoS attack is underway is a slow upload and download speed. However, a slow internet connection is not often a cause for alarm. It could be because of a website experiencing a spike in popularity, too many ads on a page, or simply a weak internet connection. As such, it is extremely difficult to avoid attacks because detection is a challenge. 

However, proactive detection coupled with aggressive protection measures can stop a DDoS attack in its tracks, right before it causes harm to a company and its assets.

Best Practices for DDoS Protection

Although the level of sophistication and complexity of DDoS techniques continues to grow, there are basic steps you can take to safeguard your organization.

Identify Normal Traffic Patterns

Having a baseline understanding of your network’s traffic behavior will make it easier to spot spikes, anomalies, and unusual behavior associated with DDoS attacks. 

Identify Critical Systems

Organizations should identify the critical infrastructure and applications that must be protected when a DDoS attack is detected. Critical systems may include websites, servers, and networks. A readily available inventory of these assets is imperative.

Secure Your Network

Never underestimate the power of basic network security measures. They can help your organization build a strong security foundation and cushion the impact of attacks. Here is a list of security considerations that should be in place:

  1. Updating security patches
  2. Training employees to prevent negligence
  3. Strengthening passwords
  4. Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  5. Conducting risk assessments
  6. Using virtual private networks (VPNs)
  7. Deploying firewalls and antivirus software

Increase Network Bandwidth

Provisioning extra bandwidth can help deal with the traffic spikes associated with DDoS attacks. Unfortunately, the additional bandwidth will not necessarily prevent an attack, especially without additional security measures. But it can lessen the attack’s impact.

Create a DDoS Protection Plan

Organizations need a well-defined plan to mitigate DDoS attacks. This is because once an attack is detected, it is likely already underway. Here are the main elements of a protection plan:

  1. Create a systems checklist.
  2. Form a response team and define each member’s responsibilities.
  3. Define an acceptable time for mitigation.
  4. Deploy a DDoS protection service before you need it.

Four Stages of DDoS Mitigation

DDoS mitigation refers to the tools and techniques for protecting your networks and systems from a DDoS attack or lessening its impact. There are four steps to successful DDoS mitigation.

1. Detection

Organizations must recognize an attack as early as possible. Even the tiniest of deviations in site traffic could indicate a DDoS attack. 

Human detection may not always catch unusual behaviors. As such, organizations are adopting user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions to detect abnormal network behavior. UEBA tools use machine learning to detect anomalies in the behavior of not just users but also the routers, servers, and endpoints in that network.

2. Response

To stop a DDoS threat once it is identified, the network must respond quickly by absorbing or diverting malicious traffic away from the threat's intended target, such as a server. This is usually carried out via Domain Name System (DNS) routing. Because DNS routing is always on, it is effective against attacks on both the application and network layers.

3. Filtering

By identifying patterns that distinguish legitimate from malicious traffic, DDoS traffic can be filtered out. This can be accomplished without disrupting the user experience. For example, an attack may target only one server but not others. The IT team can pinpoint which traffic to drop by determining which users are using the affected server.

4. Analysis

To safeguard against future DDoS attacks, IT administrators should conduct an analysis of the attack and the organization's security response. They can accomplish this by capturing information about the attack via system logs and analytics. Information can also be shared externally with the larger cybersecurity community in general.

Select a DDoS Protection Service Before You Need It

A multilayered DDoS protection solution, such as FortiDDoS, protects organizations from both known and zero-day attacks. As DDoS attacks continue to evolve in both sophistication and scale, organizations need a comprehensive solution that can monitor hundreds of thousands of parameters simultaneously using advanced analytics and reporting tools. FortiDDoS includes the Fortinet DDoS attack mitigation appliance.