Kentik - Network Observability

DDoS Protection

In the era of ever-increasing online threats, safeguarding your network and applications from DDoS attacks is critical. This article explores the concept of DDoS protection, explaining the nature of DDoS attacks, the diverse threat landscape, and the importance of a robust DDoS defense and mitigation strategy. Learn about different attack types, essential components of a DDoS protection strategy, the four stages of DDoS mitigation, and the role of network observability in DDoS protection.

What is DDoS Protection?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection is the process of defending your network, applications, and services from DDoS attacks that can overwhelm your resources and disrupt your business operations. A comprehensive DDoS protection strategy involves identifying and mitigating threats before they hit origin servers. Protecting against DDoS involves various methods and tools, such as traffic monitoring, network filtering, and rate limiting, to safeguard your infrastructure from malicious traffic without affecting legitimate traffic.

As DDoS attacks continue to evolve in scale and complexity, it has become increasingly critical for businesses to implement robust DDoS protection measures to safeguard their assets and maintain uninterrupted online services for their customers.

What is a DDoS Attack?

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of a targeted system, network, or application by overwhelming it with a flood of attack traffic from multiple sources. The primary objective of a DDoS attack is to consume the target’s resources, such as bandwidth, processing power, or memory, rendering it unable to process legitimate user requests and effectively causing a denial of service. DDoS attacks can lead to significant financial losses, damage to brand reputation, and a negative impact on user experience.

Understanding the DDoS Threat Landscape

DDoS attacks are orchestrated by flooding a targeted system, network, or application with an overwhelming amount of traffic from multiple sources. The primary objective is to disrupt the target’s normal operations and deny access to legitimate users. These attacks can result in significant financial losses, damage to brand reputation, and negative impact on user experience.

Some common types of DDoS attacks include:

Volume-based Attacks

Volume-based attacks aim to saturate the target’s bandwidth by generating massive amounts of traffic. This type of attack overwhelms the target network’s capacity, making it impossible to process legitimate traffic. Common volume-based attacks include:

  • UDP floods: This attack sends large numbers of User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets to the target, overwhelming its capacity to process incoming packets.
  • ICMP floods: Also known as a “ping flood,” this attack involves sending numerous Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) packets, or “pings,” to the target, consuming network resources and causing a denial of service.
  • Spoofed-packet floods: This attack sends large amounts of packets with spoofed source IP addresses, making it difficult for the target to identify and filter malicious traffic.

Protocol Attacks

Protocol attacks exploit weaknesses in network protocols to consume server or network resources. This type of attack targets the communication protocols networks rely on to function, disrupting service. Common protocol attacks include:

  • SYN floods: This attack involves sending numerous SYN (synchronize) requests to a target server, which causes it to allocate resources for connections that never complete, eventually consuming all available resources.
  • Ping of Death: This attack sends malformed or oversized ICMP packets, which can cause the target system to crash or become unresponsive due to a buffer overflow.
  • Smurf attacks: This type of attack involves sending ICMP echo requests (pings) to a network’s broadcast address, causing all devices on the network to respond simultaneously and overwhelm the target with traffic.

Application-layer Attacks

Application-layer attacks target specific applications or services, often exploiting vulnerabilities in an application itself or exhausting the target’s resources to disrupt service. Common application-layer attacks include:

  • HTTP floods: This attack sends large numbers of HTTP requests to a target web server, overwhelming its resources and causing it to slow down or become unresponsive.
  • Slowloris: A type of application-layer attack that involves sending partial HTTP requests to a target server, keeping connections open for as long as possible, and gradually exhausting the server’s resources.
  • DNS query floods: This attack targets Domain Name System (DNS) servers by sending a high volume of DNS queries, causing the target server to become overloaded and unresponsive, resulting in a denial of service for legitimate users trying to resolve domain names.

Infrastructure Layer Attacks

Infrastructure layer attacks target the underlying systems and resources that support a network, such as routers, switches, and application servers. These attacks aim to disrupt the target’s infrastructure by exploiting various attack vectors and vulnerabilities in these critical components. Infrastructure layer attacks often involve floods of malicious traffic that exploit specific protocols or systems, causing them to become overwhelmed and unable to function properly. Some common infrastructure layer attacks include UDP, ICMP, and SYN floods, as described previously. By targeting the fundamental components of a network, these attacks can devastate the target’s operations and availability.

The Components of a Comprehensive DDoS Protection Strategy

A robust DDoS protection strategy encompasses various elements, including:

Traffic monitoring and analysis

Continuously monitoring and analyzing network traffic enables organizations to detect and respond to potential DDoS attacks in real time. Techniques such as flow analysis, anomaly detection, and traffic baselining help identify abnormal traffic patterns and potential threats.

Network filtering and rate limiting

Implementing network filtering rules and rate limiting can help mitigate DDoS attacks by blocking or limiting malicious traffic while allowing legitimate traffic to pass through. Examples include:

  • Blocking traffic from known malicious IP addresses.
  • Limiting the rate of incoming requests.
  • Implementing geo-blocking to restrict traffic from specific regions.

Application-level protection

Deploying application-level security measures, such as Web Application Firewalls (WAF), can act as a reverse proxy and help protect against application-layer DDoS attacks by filtering out malicious requests and safeguarding critical application resources.

On-premises and cloud-based mitigation solutions

Combining on-premises DDoS mitigation hardware with cloud-based DDoS protection services can help organizations effectively respond to large-scale and sophisticated attacks. On-premises solutions protect against smaller, targeted attacks, while cloud-based services can absorb and mitigate large-scale volumetric attacks.

Incident response planning

Developing and maintaining a comprehensive incident response plan, including defined roles and responsibilities, communication channels, and escalation procedures, is crucial for effectively managing and mitigating DDoS attacks. In addition, by identifying the critical infrastructure and systems that must be protected, organizations can proactively protect against DDoS attacks.

The Four Stages of DDoS Mitigation

1. Detection

The detection stage involves continuously monitoring and analyzing network traffic to identify potential DDoS attacks. By observing traffic patterns and using flow analysis and anomaly detection techniques, organizations can quickly detect abnormal traffic patterns that may signify an ongoing DDoS attack. Early detection is crucial for initiating a timely response to minimize the impact on critical infrastructure.

2. Response

Once an attack has been detected, the response stage entails implementing appropriate countermeasures to mitigate the attack’s impact. Responses can include:

  • Activating pre-defined mitigation plans.
  • Adjusting network configurations.
  • Engaging with network layer and application layer protection systems.

Rapid response is vital for minimizing downtime and ensuring service availability.

3. Filtering

Filtering is the process of distinguishing and separating the attack traffic from legitimate traffic, ensuring that only genuine user requests reach the targeted systems. Techniques employed in filtering may involve rate limiting, IP blocking, or implementing network filtering rules. Filtering helps maintain the integrity of the network while mitigating the effects of the DDoS attack.

4. Analysis

After the attack has been mitigated, the analysis involves examining the incident’s details to understand the attack’s origin, nature, and impact on the network. By collecting and analyzing data related to the attack, organizations can identify areas for improvement in their DDoS protection strategy and make necessary adjustments to prevent similar attacks in the future. This stage is essential for refining and optimizing an organization’s DDoS defense capabilities.

Additional DDoS Protection Techniques & Best Practices

In addition to the methods discussed earlier, several other techniques can be employed to enhance your defense against DDoS attacks. By incorporating these additional measures into your DDoS protection plan, you can further strengthen your infrastructure’s resilience against potential attacks and maintain the availability of your services.

Minimizing Attack Surface

Reducing the number of exposed points in your infrastructure can help limit potential attack vectors. You can achieve this by using firewalls, access control lists, or placing resources behind content distribution networks (CDNs) or load balancers.

Planning for Scalability

To handle large-scale volumetric DDoS attacks better, ensure that your hosting provider offers redundant Internet connectivity and ample bandwidth capacity. Additionally, consider using CDNs and smart DNS resolution services to provide extra infrastructure support.

Adaptive Capacity Management

In the face of DDoS attacks, dynamically scale your computational resources to prevent resource overload. You can use load balancers to distribute traffic effectively or opt for larger computational resources with enhanced networking capabilities.

Monitoring Network Traffic Patterns

Develop a clear understanding of your typical traffic patterns to better differentiate between legitimate and malicious traffic. Then, implement rate limiting to accept only as much traffic as your system can handle without compromising availability.

Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

Employ WAFs to protect against sophisticated application attacks, such as SQL injection or cross-site request forgery, that exploit vulnerabilities in your application. Customize mitigations based on observed traffic patterns and characteristics, such as unusual IP addresses or unexpected geographic origins.

Implementing DNS Security Best Practices

Secure your DNS infrastructure by implementing best practices such as using DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) to protect against DNS spoofing, limiting recursion to authorized clients, and hardening your DNS servers against attacks.

Using Threat Intelligence Feeds

Integrating threat intelligence feeds into your DDoS protection strategy can provide you with real-time information on emerging threats, attack vectors, and malicious IP addresses. Such feeds allows you to proactively block malicious traffic and stay ahead of potential attacks.

The Role of Network Observability in DDoS Protection

Network observability is vital in enabling organizations to effectively detect, analyze, and respond to DDoS attacks. By providing deep visibility into network traffic, network observability solutions help organizations identify attack patterns, pinpoint affected network resources, and understand the impact of attacks on their infrastructure.

In addition, network observability can help organizations optimize their DDoS protection strategies by identifying trends and patterns in attack traffic, providing insights into the effectiveness of mitigation measures, and informing future improvements to their defenses.

How Kentik Can Help with DDoS Protection

Kentik offers a comprehensive, big-data driven network visibility and DDoS protection solution, Kentik Protect, which is delivered as a cost-effective SaaS platform. Kentik’s solution provides organizations with the industry’s most accurate DDoS detection and can automatically trigger mitigation via RTBH, Cloudflare, Radware DefensePro, or A10 Thunder TPS mitigation.

Key benefits of using Kentik for DDoS protection include:

  1. Real-time network traffic monitoring and analysis: Kentik’s platform allows organizations to monitor and analyze network traffic in real time, quickly detecting and responding to potential DDoS attacks.

  2. Advanced DDoS detection algorithms: Kentik uses sophisticated algorithms and machine learning techniques to accurately detect various types of DDoS attacks, including volumetric, protocol, and application-layer attacks.

  3. Automated mitigation: Kentik’s platform can automatically trigger mitigation measures when a DDoS attack is detected, minimizing the impact on your infrastructure and reducing downtime.

  4. Incident analysis and reporting: Kentik provides comprehensive reports and analysis of DDoS incidents, helping organizations understand the attack’s impact on their infrastructure and informing future improvements to their DDoS protection strategies.

  5. Integration with leading mitigation providers: Kentik integrates seamlessly with leading DDoS mitigation providers, ensuring a comprehensive and effective response to DDoS attacks.

  6. Integrated threat feeds: Kentik Protect enhances DDoS protection by enriching flow records with IP reputation data from Spamhaus, identifying threats such as botnet command and control servers, malware distribution points, phishing websites, and spam sources.

To learn more about how network observability can improve your organization’s DDoS protection, check out the blog post “8 reasons why network observability is critical for DDoS detection and mitigation”, watch the Superloop video, and read our guide, “The NetOps guide to network security”.

Discover our latest resources on DDoS attacks, BGP hijacking, and other network security threats on our DDoS Protection and Network Security Package page.

Ready to get started with superior cloud-based DDoS protection? Start a free trial of Kentik or request a demo of our DDoS solution.

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