Grown-up DDoS: how only automated mitigation can protect you now

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DDoS has a long history, and like so many things in cybersecurity – where working DDoS strategies are foiled, the bad guys simply think of new ones. Unfortunately, the bad guys now have machines that can think of new strategies for them. Whether it’s AI, machine learning or something else, the fact is that your DDoS enemies have just grown up.

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How do you protect yourself against the new, smarter DDoS strategies? Simply put, you must use the latest automated anti-DDoS tools against criminals if you stand any chance of avoiding costly DDoS attacks. Read this article to see how DDoS changed, why classic tactics no longer work and how automated anti-DDoS protection saves the day.

DDoS has evolved into something far more evil

In 1995, the first DDoS attack involved humans manually repeating site access attempts to drown a service out. 1999 saw the rise of botnets, but these weren’t all that smart and simply sent loads of signals hoping to swamp a service.

As typical attack vectors saw more and more effective mitigation, DDoS turned to vectors including DNS server and specific OS and application server vulnerabilities. However, even these were relatively easy to mitigate as traffic patterns were identifiable. Now, advanced methods make it almost impossible to mitigate DDoS attacks which automatically generate random source addresses to confuse anti-DDoS services.

Forget about standard tactics

Classic DDoS mitigation works on a rules-based system. We know what regular traffic looks like and by that measure, we can identify destructive DDoS attacks. Simple, right? That would be true only if the DDoS attack uses standard attack methods. While a rules-based mitigation system can be effective it becomes almost impossible when a DDoS attack uses various methods and vectors.

Many rules-based systems make use of a flagging system that requires human intervention. Overwhelm humans with too many flags and they won’t be able to press the mitigation switch. Furthermore, even the most advanced DDoS systems that effectively stop traffic when a rule is violated can be outfoxed by DDoS attackers using machine learning technologies that automatically scan for vulnerabilities across a broad spectrum of attack vectors.

How automated DDoS mitigation can thwart attacks

Clearly DDoS attackers are no longer taking a simple approach to their victims, and as a result, your DDoS protection system needs to be extremely intelligent to be able to stop attacks. Automated solutions, however, can deliver an impenetrable layer of protection – identifying and stopping attacks within seconds.

Much of this automation success lies in data-processing muscle: quickly analyze incoming network transactions and apply machine learning technologies to detect requests that are not genuine. Automated DDoS protection does not rely on simple rules, instead it is able to detect even brand-new attack patterns.

With DDoS protection using machine learning algorithms you move away from basic protective measures such as rate-limiting and rules-based decisions to DDoS protection that can intelligently analyze behavioral characteristics and automatically build detection patterns on the fly, stopping even the most intelligent attacks.

Choosing automated DDoS mitigation

By now it should be abundantly clear that manual, static, rules-based DDoS protection will not provide much protection in the new area of automated DDoS attacks. So, you need automated protection – but how do you choose an anti-DDoS service? Merely based on the intelligence of its software?

Automated DDoS does need to be intelligent, but DDoS vendors need to meet other criteria too. Any DDoS service, no matter how intelligent, will be overwhelmed if it cannot deal with high traffic levels. DDoS attacks are increasingly getting bigger: a recent attack on GitHub reached 1.3Tbps, an enormous amount of traffic by any measure. Look for a DDoS vendor which has the capacity to defend against multi-terabyte attacks.

The method of protection also matters: cloud-based anti-DDoS that stops attacks before it reaches your network is preferable to internal equipment that can only attempt to stop an attack once it has entered your network perimeter.

Protection is essential

Like a lot of things in life, there is (thankfully) no guarantee that your business will suffer from a DDoS attack. There is, however, a risk. With this risk comes the potential for an enormous loss: should your organization suffer from a DDoS attack it can expect to lose significant sums. In 2017 the average cost of DDoS attacks was $2.5 million per incident.

Those in charge of cybersecurity therefore have a two-fold responsibility. First, they need to ensure they are deploying DDoS protection in the first instance: DDoS protection is essential because the risks and motives around DDoS attacks are simply too many. Next, they need to ensure they make use of effective, automated DDoS protection that can stop the latest DDoS attacks in their tracks.

Choosing a vendor is an essential part of this two-step process, and we’ve outlined which factors you need to take into account. Pick the right vendor and you can rest assured that even the most advanced automated DDoS attacks won’t leave your businesses reeling from the damages.