What steps should you take before a DDoS attack?


In today’s interconnected digital landscape, businesses and organizations rely heavily on the internet to deliver services, communicate, and conduct transactions. However, this dependence also makes them susceptible to various cyber threats, with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks being a particularly potent adversary. These attacks can cripple networks, disrupt operations, and lead to severe financial and reputational damage. To safeguard against this menace, organizations must adopt a proactive approach by taking several crucial steps before a DDoS attack strikes.

Understanding Your Digital Assets and Services

Before bracing for a DDoS storm, it’s essential to understand your digital fortress’s vulnerabilities. Start by identifying the services exposed to the public internet and assessing their susceptibility to attack. Prioritize assets based on their importance and availability requirements. Implement robust cybersecurity practices such as server hardening and regular patching to lower the risk of an attack. Moreover, ensure that your Web Application Firewall (WAF) covers these critical assets and is configured to deny potential threats.

Mapping User Connectivity

Understanding how users connect to your network is equally crucial. Identify how your user base accesses your organization’s network, on-site or remotely, through VPNs. Recognize potential network chokepoints and develop mitigations to minimize disruptions to key personnel. By comprehending user connectivity, you can anticipate attack vectors and prepare accordingly.

Enrolling in DDoS Protection Services

Many internet service providers (ISPs) offer basic DDoS protections but consider enrolling in dedicated DDoS protection services for comprehensive defense. These specialized services provide robust safeguards against larger and more advanced DDoS attacks. They can monitor network traffic, confirm attacks, pinpoint their sources, and reroute malicious traffic from your network. Enrolling in such services should follow a thorough review of your critical assets and services.

Engaging with Service Providers

Collaborate with your ISP and cloud service provider (CSP) to understand their existing DDoS protections. Review service agreements to determine the extent of the protections offered and identify any gaps or limitations in coverage. Consult with these providers to implement best practices for hosting web servers while utilizing their DDoS protections effectively.

Leveraging Edge Network Defenses

Managed service providers (MSPs) offering edge defense services can be invaluable in guarding against DDoS attacks. These services detect and mitigate threats, reducing the risk of malicious traffic reaching its target. Protecting your network’s edge enhances the chances of legitimate users accessing your websites and web applications without disruption.

Optimizing System and Network Designs

To thwart DDoS attacks, review your system and network designs. Eliminate single points of failure, particularly high-value assets hosted on a single node. Ensure critical assets achieve high availability (HA) and load balancing (LB) across multiple nodes. Colocation of essential services can also bolster business continuity, but the most effective strategy is stopping the attack at its source through upstream service provider defenses or local data center DDoS protections.

Creating a DDoS Response Plan

Prepare for the worst by developing a comprehensive DDoS response plan. This plan should guide your organization through identifying, mitigating, and recovering from DDoS attacks. All stakeholders, including leaders and network defenders, should understand their roles and responsibilities during each stage of an attack. The DDoS response plan should be integral to your organization’s disaster recovery plan.

Ensuring Business Continuity

Incorporate DDoS considerations into your business continuity plan. Identify alternatives for critical applications, particularly communication channels. Ensure that leadership can swiftly communicate decisions to internal network defenders or external service providers if a DDoS attack overwhelms your network.

Accounting for Physical Backups

Consider how a DDoS attack may impact physical backups for your network. Determine contingency plans to ensure your organization can function even if hardware connections are limited during an attack.

Regular Testing and Tabletop Exercises

Practice makes perfect, and this holds for DDoS preparedness. Conduct tabletop exercises and regularly test your DDoS response plan with all internal and external stakeholders, including service providers. These exercises serve multiple purposes, from improving participant understanding and identifying gaps to building confidence and instilling a sense of urgency. After each exercise, conduct an after-action review (AAR) and update the response plan based on lessons learned.

Safeguarding your digital fortress against DDoS attacks is not a matter of chance but of diligent preparation. By following these essential steps, organizations can bolster their defenses, minimize the impact of attacks, and ensure business continuity even in the face of relentless cyber threats. A proactive stance in cybersecurity can be the key to weathering the storm of DDoS attacks.