5 Ways to Stop a DDoS Attack
As the ever-expanding world of e-commerce opens unimaginable opportunities for retailers in the digital age, it's not free of trouble.
This is the reality faced by too many companies, from web-based giants like Amazon.com to traditional brick-and-mortar chains such as Target. The immeasurable benefits from creating an online marketplace simultaneously present a valuable resource seen as a target ripe for attack in the eyes of hackers. Thus, every case made for an increase in online marketing is inherently a call for increased cyber security.
A third of online threats result from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, making them the most common cyber threat to online retailers. What’s worse is that they're often used as a smokescreen for more sinister acts, such as ransom notices or large-scale data breaches. Even on their own, DDoS attacks do more than temporarily take a website offline. They cost money — an estimated $22,000 per minute for an average of 54 minutes per attack.
The gloomy statistics may intimidate small players, but the fact is that many victims may have been able to prevent or at least contain some of the damage had they been more prepared. With that said, there are a series of steps retailers can take to protect their online assets:
1. Purchase extra bandwidth. When a DDoS attack is triggered, hackers in remote areas of the world are often manipulating computers that are equally geographically dispersed to overwhelm a website. The amount of firepower it takes to cross over this particular hurdle depends on the total bandwidth supplied to the website. Higher amounts of bandwidth raise the benchmark, making it more difficult for hackers to get their way.
The issue is that web managers either underprepare by using the minimum bandwidth to serve their online visitors while failing to account for a possible attack, or they simply haven't updated their bandwidth since they first built their website. Since bandwidth packages have only gotten cheaper (and will probably keep doing so), it's best to continually upgrade to the highest amount possible within budgetary concerns.
2. Employ automated mitigation. Retailers are more informed than ever when it comes to their customer base. E-commerce is revolutionizing consumer data collection to better serve customer needs. With so much relevant information at their fingertips, companies barely have to alter their practices in order to introduce tools to feed this data into cybersecurity.
By analyzing historical patterns of web visitors, websites can draw out a baseline of normal viewing activity. Whenever the numbers begin to wander too far out of line, the system distinguishes early signs of a DDoS attack. Any sudden spike will result in the suspicious traffic being rerouted while normal viewers are left to continue their browsing habits undisturbed.
3. Consult third-party vendors. Sometimes the role of monitoring all incoming web traffic can be too burdensome for a business specializing in a field that's completely unrelated to cybersecurity. Maybe it's easier to pay a price for peace of mind by transferring the liability to an outside party.
Regardless of the reasoning, there are more than enough third-party contractors willing to provide a service in which they've already been proven to excel. Their selling point lies in their competitive advantage to deliver cyber protection on a mass scale. For example, they may have international resources better equipped at counteracting hacking attacks occurring across multiple borders.
Any suitable client would be capable of observing online traffic patterns and diverting potential sources of a DDoS attack. There are additional useful services offered depending on the vendor.
4. Consider blocking user datagram protocol (UDP) or transmission control protocol (TCP) sources. Depending on the nature of your business, it may be more accustomed to handling web traffic of either TCP or UDP format. For example, websites incorporating video streaming and gaming services likely engage in more UDP connections, while the opposite may hold true for TCP traffic.
All that matters is to be aware of your own patterns. Various analyses dispute that format is more likely to house a massive DDoS attack. However, if your website has virtually no dealings in one form of traffic, it can be disabled completely to further mitigate the risk of an attack.
5. Further configuration. A business can cover every base to the fullest extent by outsourcing all cybersecurity concerns and putting up every cyber barrier possible, yet still be managing the entire operation on an inferior computer.
It's not just a question of whether the unit is outdated or powerful enough, but whether it's doing its job as efficiently as it could be. Those in charge of technology management should form a checklist of every possible parameter that can be customized to better protect against cyber invaders. These areas can include (but are not limited to) virus protection, firewalls, server and operating system configuration.
As retailers ride the wave of e-commerce, it's essential to be mindful of the less attractive aspects resulting from the same commercial advancements. Despite all of the perks of relocating your business to the web, the benefits are scarce once jeopardized by threats to the foundation of the website.
DDoS attacks (and other cyberattacks as well) not only drain an unpredictable amount of money, time and energy, but also brand reputation — a priceless resource that can be impossible to recuperate. Fortunately, retailers are far from helpless in fighting these threats.
Charles Herring is a consulting security analyst at Lancope, a provider of network security, performance and application monitoring solutions.
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