How does DDoS protection work
How does DDoS protection work

Every website administrator and owner around the world must be ready for any attack. There are many types of web attacks, from hacks and phishing to more common DDoS attacks. Websites of any size are now susceptible to DDoS attacks that can cause problems for users.

What is a DDoS attack?

DDoS attacks basically attack a website by flooding its servers with fake traffic. The attack’s size can cause the website to experience overloading and a denial-of-service. The site’s legitimate users might have trouble accessing it until the attack is resolved.

DDoS attacks come in a variety of sizes and severity. They can be as severe as a few gigabytes per minute or as large as several hundred gigabytes. The more serious the attack is, the harder it can be stopped. They are also becoming more frequent, more common, and more unpredictable than ever. A major website was taken down recently with a record-breaking attack of more 600 gigabytes per minute.

What Does DDoS Protection Do?

Hosting companies now offer DDoS protection options that help protect websites from these types of attacks. DDoS protection uses advanced software and algorithms to monitor traffic coming to the website. Traffic that isn’t legitimate is blocked from accessing the website, while legitimate traffic continues to flow through to the site.

DDoS protection options typically protect against attacks of a certain size. Standard protection options typically protect against attacks between five and ten gigabytes per seconds, but more robust options can guard against larger attacks, such as 100 gigabytes or more per second.

How much protection does your site need?

You might consider adding DDoS protection for your website. Check with your hosting company first to find out if they offer DDoS protection. Some hosting companies now offer basic DDoS protection for all dedicated servers.

A basic protection option may not be sufficient depending on how large and frequent your site is. To get an idea of how much protection you need for your site, it is best to consider the traffic your site receives.

DDoS protection should be something all website administrators must seriously think about for their websites’ security. With DDoS protection, you may be able to avoid extensive downtime and other headaches–including a damaged reputation–associated with a DDoS attack.

Today’s distributed-denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), not only try to crash websites or applications but also serve to distract IT security personnel away from bigger threats such as ransomware attacks and data breaches.

Modern DDoS attacks can also be very sophisticated. They can combine low-and slow application DDoS attack, volumetric attacks and authentication-based DDoS attack.

In other words, DDoS attacks can be devastating if your DDoS protection system is not complete.

We will be discussing how to prepare for a DDoS attack and the different DDoS protection methods. Finally, we will talk about which DDoS protection model should you choose based on your specific needs.

OSI and DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS), can be distinguished by the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection), layer being attacked.

OSI is a conceptual framework for modeling a network or telecommunications system. It consists of seven different “layers”.

DDoS attacks on network layers 3 and 4 are most common. These attacks are also known as volumetric attacks. Layer 6 (presentation) attacks are more complex. They are usually low-level and slow, but can have just as devastating results.

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DDoS protection is only possible if you know which layer is being attacked.

How DDoS protection does its job

There are many ways to protect your network from DDoS attacks. This is the main problem. How can we distinguish between legitimate and malicious traffic?

Today, there are many DDoS mitigation options available to address this problem. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. There are three main DDoS protection methods that are used today: the clean pipe method (CDN dilution), and the TCP/UDP DDoS proxy.

Protect your pipes from DDoS attacks

Clean pipe is a method that allows all traffic to pass through a “clean pipe”, also known as a “scrubbing center”. This clean pipe allows malicious traffic to be distinguished from legitimate traffic and will only allow legitimate user traffic to the webserver.

Many ISPs offer Clean Pipe protection services. Blackholing was a method ISPs used to mitigate DDoS attacks. This means that all traffic, even legitimate, is blocked.

The Clean Pipe Protection method has its flaws, however:

  • These are difficult and costly to install. To terminate a GRE tunnel, you’ll need a BGP protocol router and hardware. Cloud-based services are available, but they can be very expensive.
  • Clean Pipe involves redirecting traffic to the clean pipeline/scrubbing centre. This method relies on DDoS detection. The rerouting process may take several minutes, depending on the time taken from the mitigation process to rerouting.
  • Clean Pipe is not effective against packet-based or application flood attacks (layer 7 DDoS).
  • While cleaner than blackholing, Clean Pipe allows legitimate traffic to flow. The mitigation profile for Clean Pipe can be complex and can create false positives (where legitimate traffic has been blocked).

The Clean Pipe method, however, is the most versatile and supports almost all types of applications. The Clean Pipe method can be described as a jack-of all-trades, comprehensive approach to DDoS protection. However, it does not provide advanced protection for specific applications (it is a master of none).

CDN Protection & DDoS Protection

CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of distributed networks that delivers content to users. The request will be answered by the closest server to the user, not the original server.

The CDN system has two main benefits when protecting the system from DDoS attacks. First, because there are many servers involved, the total bandwidth is larger. The CDN technology is capable of absorbing DDoS attacks at any level, whether they are volumetric or layer 3.

The second is that the original server does not respond to the request of the user, so it’s harder for DDoS attacks to reach this server. CDN dilution does not guarantee perfect results. There are still some drawbacks.

  • CDN dilution services can be expensive and may have hidden costs, especially if you use third-party networks.
  • Although not directly related to DDoS protection: Some countries have blocked IP addresses from popular CDNs. Your audience might not be allowed to access your website.
  • The DDoS attack can be launched if the CDN servers go down.
  • CDNs can only be used for web applications. You cannot use them on any proprietary TCP/UDP applications.

The CDN server, however, is context-aware and can act faster than Clean Pipe (no lead times). A CDN dilution is a great DDoS protection option, even if you don’t use a TCP/UDP app.

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Protective DDoS protection for proxy TCP/UDP

Open ports on websites and platforms that contain TCP/UDP services such as email (SMTP), SSH Access, gaming services, etc. can lead to DDoS attacks.

A TCP/UDP proxy is used to address this problem. It works in the same way as a CDN protection dilution-based proxy. This method sends data packets to the TCP/UDP proxy. It will filter malicious traffic and packets.

This method has its drawbacks, just like the other DDoS protection methods.

  • The backend will alter the source IP. This can add vulnerability as we cannot get the IP of the visitor.
  • TCP/UDP proxy configurations are per-application rather than per-domain (as in CDN dilutition).
  • It is more susceptible to false positives than CDN dilution (quite comparable to the Clean Pipe method).
  • It doesn’t provide granularity in networks.

TCP/UDP reverse proxy can be very versatile and accurate. It allows you to access specific ports rather than all ports. It can also absorb a slow DDoS attack.

Different DDoS Protection Models

We can also distinguish DDoS protection depending on how it is implemented on your system.

On-premise DDoS protection model

This model allows the DDoS protection to be implemented on your business’s premises (i.e. your data center). This model has a clear benefit: You have complete control over all aspects of the DDoS protection program.

These are just a few of the other benefits to this DDoS protection system:

  • Rapid response. This DDoS protection model has one of its key benefits. Your in-house team can respond immediately to DDoS attacks using the on-premises system when an attack is detected
  • It is possible to develop customized solutions based on your DDoS protection requirements. These solutions can scale independently.
  • Much better at handling low-level DDoS attacks
  • Third-party DDoS service providers don’t need to have your private keys.

An on-premise DDoS protection strategy gives you maximum flexibility and control over your strategy. An on-premise DDoS protection solution is a good option if your website or systems are frequently targeted. You can also customize the protection strategy to suit your specific needs.

On-premise DDoS models have their limitations.

  • Scalability. Scalability.
  • You might need to deal with multiple vendors to get complete DDoS hardware. This can make it a tedious process.
  • This approach has the greatest problem: cost. DDoS protection hardware is expensive and will only be of value when you are attacked. We don’t want to be attacked frequently so, if you are lucky enough, these solutions might only be used once.
  • Some on-premise hardware solutions may not work with cloud solutions. We will discuss this below. This can cause problems if you need to upgrade or make a change.

Cloud-based DDoS protection

We’ve already discussed the cost of on-premise DDoS solutions. Complex and costly hardware such as load balancers or hardware firewalls would be required.

Many companies are now switching to cloud-based DDoS protection solutions. This is usually more cost-effective since they don’t have to invest in equipment or infrastructure. We can also eliminate the human cost of maintaining these DDoS-related hardware solutions.

This doesn’t mean that cloud-based DDoS protection is better or easier. We’d have to take into account these factors:

  • Customer reviews and reputation are important factors. This is an important consideration in this modern age. We must also consider the customer service aspect.
  • What are the capabilities of the cloud-based solutions based on the protocols supported? How granular is traffic inspection process, analysis approach and so forth.
  • Flexibility, such as the ability to create custom configurations or ad-hoc policies
  • How DDoS protection solutions will distinguish legitimate traffic from malicious traffic. Different approaches might be offered by different vendors, and different customers might require different solutions.
  • Scalability. How can we adapt the cloud solution to meet the changing needs of our users?
  • Redundancy features and support for certain hardware
  • Different solutions may offer different levels of reporting. This is an important aspect to consider when considering DDoS mitigation.
  • Dependability in terms of uptime, and continuous updates to meet evolving DDoS threats.
  • To prevent malicious attacks on our network resources, we need to be able to control both outgoing and incoming traffic.
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Many companies now offer cloud-based DDoS prevention software and services using different methods and techniques (see the previous section). These cloud-based DDoS protection software and services have one major drawback: Control.

These third-party cloud-based services are great, but you don’t have any direct control over them. Your system could also be affected if their system is compromised. If you choose this option, it is important to select a reliable DDoS service.

Hybrid DDoS protection model

This approach, as the name implies, combines the best aspects of both cloud-based and on-premise protection solutions. This allows for more detailed reporting of attacks, and allows us to tailor a mitigation strategy using these resources.

This approach has the advantage of allowing you to create a multi-tiered system in which low-level DDoS attacks (layer 3, and layer 4) can be mitigated by network-tier protection such as IP reputation integration and robust firewalls. The application tier can also handle SSL termination and web applications firewall. Cloud-based protection can, however, protect the on-premise system against large volumetric DDoS attacks that are often the bane for on-premise protection.

This approach can provide DDoS protection at all levels, including against randomized HTTP flooding, DDoS Bursts and protocol-level attacks. It also protects the system from cache bypass, DDoS bursts, DDoS Bursts and other DDoS attacks.

A hybrid approach to DDoS protection is a cost-effective way to reduce initial investment. However, it offers more control and flexibility than a cloud-based DDoS mitigation system.

This approach has one major problem: it can be difficult for on-premise hardware to be integrated with the cloud-based solution. Different cloud services support different hardware, while others offer no support at any level. This is why it can take a lot of research to build a hybrid system.

End of the sentence

Every business and online entity should consider and implement a DDoS protection plan in today’s evolving DDoS attacks. When deciding how to protect your online entity against DDoS attacks, you should weigh the possible risks and the current budget against the ability to minimize the attack.

You can be proactive when it comes to determining the best DDoS protection. You won’t be able to prepare for a DDoS attack when it happens. It’s important to plan your response ahead of time.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.

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