Guarding against DDoS attacks during high-traffic periods

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are a year-round threat. However, as many security practitioners can attest, DDoS attacks are particularly prolific during high-traffic times like the holiday season.

The holidays are typically a time when organizations have reduced resources, with staff taking vacation and fewer cyber resources dedicated to monitoring networks and applications. Cybercriminals often take advantage of this opportunity to more easily execute lucrative attacks, since sales are at their highest and organizations are under pressure to minimize service downtime. Additionally, since traffic volume is at an all-time high, it can be difficult for IT staff to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate traffic. This creates a pressing need for security teams to proactively defend against attacks.

Read on to learn more about how you can help prepare your organization against DDoS attacks throughout the year, including during busy seasons.

5 ways to help protect against DDoS attacks

Any website or server downtime during peak business times can result in lost sales, disgruntled customers, high recovery costs, or damage to your reputation. The impact is even more significant for smaller organizations as it can be harder for them to recover after an attack.

DDoS attacks represent a particularly compelling threat due to their relatively low investment for a potentially high payout. Thanks to the cybercrime-as-a-service business model, a DDoS attack can be ordered from a DDoS subscription service for as little as $5. However, small and medium-sized organizations pay $120,000 on average to restore services and manage operations during a DDoS attack. So, what should organizations do?

While it’s impossible to completely avoid being targeted by DDoS attacks, proactive planning and preparation go a long way in establishing more effective defenses. Here are some of our top tips:

  1. Evaluate your risks and vulnerabilities: Ahead of any peak business times, ensure your security team has an up-to-date list of all applications within your organization that are exposed to the public internet. This list should also note the normal behavior of each application so teams can respond quickly if it begins behaving differently than expected.
  1. Make sure you’re protected: Next, you’ll want to deploy a DDoS protection service with advanced mitigation capabilities that can handle attacks at any scale. We recommend prioritizing service features such as traffic monitoring; protection tailored to the specifics of your application; DDoS protection telemetry, monitoring, and alerting; and access to a rapid response team.
  1. Create a DDoS response strategy: You’ll also want to proactively develop a DDoS response strategy to guide teams in the event of an attack. As part of that strategy, make sure you’ve assembled a DDoS response team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This DDoS response team should understand how to identify, mitigate, and monitor an attack and be able to coordinate with internal stakeholders and customers.
  1. Reach out for help during an attack: In the event that a DDoS attack does occur, reach out to the appropriate technical professionals, including the response team that you established as part of your DDoS response strategy. They will be able to help with real-time attack investigation, as well as post-attack analysis.
  1. Learn and adapt after an attack: Finally, while you’ll likely want to move on as quickly as possible if you’ve experienced an attack, it’s important to continue to monitor your resources and conduct a retrospective following an incident. Make sure your post-attack analysis considers things like which applications or services suffered the most, as well as the effectiveness of your current DDoS response strategy. You’ll also want to examine whether there was any disruption to the service or user experience and look for ways to improve your response moving forward.

DDoS attacks can be stressful to deal with at the moment, especially if they come during peak business times when your organization is tight on resources and working to meet increased customer demand. However, with a little advance preparation, you can take measures to reduce the risk and help be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently if needed to restore service while minimizing organizational impact.

To learn more about DDoS attacks and other emergent threats, visit Microsoft Security Insider.

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