Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a cybercrime in which the attacker floods a server with internet traffic to prevent users from accessing connected online services and sites.

Motivations for carrying out a DDoS vary widely, as do the types of individuals and organizations eager to perpetrate this form of cybercrime. Some DDoS attacks are carried out by disgruntled individuals and hacktivists wanting to take down a company's servers simply to make a statement, have fun by exploiting weakness, or express disapproval. 

Other DDoS attacks are financially motivated, such as a competitor disrupting or shutting down another business's online operations to steal business away in the meantime. Others involve extortion, in which perpetrators attack a company and install hostageware or ransomware on their servers, then force them to pay a large sum for the damage to be reversed. 

DDoS attacks are on the rise, and even some of the largest companies are not immune to DDoS. The largest DDoS attack in history occurred in February 2020 to none other than Amazon Web Services, overtaking the DDoS attack on GitHub two years prior. DDoS ramifications include a drop in legitimate traffic, lost business, and reputation damage.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to proliferate, as do the number of remote employees working from home, and so will the number of devices connected to a network. The security of each device may not necessarily keep up, leaving the network to which it is connected vulnerable to attack. As such, the importance of DDoS protection and mitigation is crucial.

How DDoS Attacks Work

A DDoS attack aims to overwhelm the devices, services, and network of its intended target with fake internet traffic, rendering them inaccessible to or useless for legitimate users.

DoS vs. DDoS

DDoS is a subcategory of the more general denial-of-service (DoS) attack. In a DoS attack, the attacker uses a single internet connection to barrage a target with fake requests or to try and exploit a security vulnerability. DDoS is larger in scale. It utilizes thousands (even millions) of connected devices to fulfill its goal. The sheer volume of the devices used makes a DDoS attack much harder to fight.

WAN Connections and Technology

Though WANs cover a large area, connections can be either wired or wireless. Wired WANs usually consist of broadband internet services and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), which is a form of data-forwarding technology used to control traffic flow and speed up connection, while wireless WANs normally include 4G/5G and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks.  

Pros and Cons of Wired WAN

The pros of wired WAN connections generally revolve around security. In a wired network, devices must be physically wired into the network, making it more difficult for cyberattackers to gain unauthorized access. Additionally, with a physical connection required, organizations can control the number of devices that have access to the network. With fewer devices accessing the network, the risk of malware potentially infecting the infrastructure is reduced.

The other benefit of a wired WAN connection is speed. Unlike a wireless system that can be subject to outside interference, a wired network allows for a faster connection. 

The cons of wired WAN involve hardware. The more cabled connections, the more wires to manage. Further, when using a cabled network, employees can only gain access when there is a physical connection available, limiting mobility.

Pros and Cons of Wireless WAN

The pros of a wireless WAN are the opposite. The workplace can be anywhere, giving employees flexibility. The cons of a wireless WAN include both risk, as wireless networks are generally more vulnerable to attacks, and speed, as wireless networks are often slower.

To reduce costs, an organization might lease its WAN infrastructure as a service from a third-party service provider. The WAN may operate over a dedicated, private connection, or in a hybrid WAN scenario, have parts of it operating via a shared, public medium like the internet.

WAN Optimization and SD-WAN

WAN optimization aims to solve problems with WAN performance, usually related to speed. It is a process whereby network engineers reconfigure the network to ensure that certain applications receive more bandwidth and so can move faster through the network. This could be the case, for example, with a retailer that needs to send transaction data through as quickly as possible to its main data center.

WAN optimization has become crucial as data traveling through a WAN has increased in volume and complexity. Additionally, corporate WANs have expanded with remote workers, as those workers who used to be in an office connecting through the corporate WAN are now working from home and connecting through the public internet, yet their data must travel further and just as securely.

Software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) have increased in popularity over the last several years. SD-WANs remove the manual labor required to optimize a WAN and instead rely on software to manage a WAN's connections, whether they are MPLS, 3G/4G, or broadband. SD-WANs increase an organization's efficiency by tracking application performance and using automation to select the best connectivity option. 

Because software does the job of choosing the best connection, it is not uncommon to have teleconferencing use a dedicated circuit and email use the public internet. User experience is key, especially as users may be accessing their organization's network in different environments via different applications. While considered a challenge for traditional WANs, SD-WANs are adept at supporting intensive, high-bandwidth applications, such as those involving voice or video. SD-WAN offloads such applications to local internet where possible.

SD-WANs also offer the ability to optimize connectivity to such cloud services as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. With the continued migration to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), organizations and their customers expect their data to travel securely through the cloud.  

Further, an SD-WAN has management and reporting features that give a single view of WAN performance.