Why Simulating DDoS Attacks is an Effective Defense Strategy

Approximately 2.9 million DDoS attacks were launched in the first quarter of 2021. The estimated figure represents a 31% increase compared to the same period in 2020. The Neustar International Security Council (NISC) analysis disclosed that nearly 70% of organizations were targeted with ransomware DDoS attacks, and 36% agreed to pay the ransom. Episodes are only increasing, and the frightening truth is that attacks in the first quarter of 2022 were four and a half times higher than in Q1’21.

DDoS attacks prove that the best-of-breed mitigation systems are insufficient to protect dynamic networks from sophisticated attacks. DDoS attacks manage to bypass mitigation systems by exploiting their limitations, increasing traffic to a level that brings the website crashing down. As a result, organizations relying solely on mitigation solutions are more likely to become victims of damaging DDoS attacks. DDoS mitigation solutions can detect and mitigate simple threats or changes in traffic that display a repetitive pattern. However, attackers are now frequently changing tactics and adopting tactics such as low-and-slow attacks or using multiple complex vectors, making it difficult for mitigation solutions to block. As a result, more and more DDoS attacks are now bypassing the best-of-breed mitigation solutions.

Also, enterprises often have limited visibility as the SLAs they sign with mitigation companies do not suffice to provide complete protection. This can be a more significant challenge, as with limited visibility into their DDoS vulnerability gap, they can be entirely taken by surprise during an actual DDoS attack. For example, VoIP giant Bandwidth, with customers such as Google, Zoom, and others, suffered a DDoS attack in September 2021 that caused nationwide voice outages for several days and made critical services fail. The company estimated that the impact of the DDoS attack might reduce revenue for the entire year by an amount ranging from $9 million to $12 million.

Bandwidth is a classic case study of how mitigation systems do not prevent DDoS attacks. Bandwidth’s CEO David Morken when briefing Wall Street Analysts in a conference call, said that their infrastructure includes specific DDoS mitigation systems and that these have been routinely audited in responding to the attack in real-time. He also says they augmented their DDoS defenses to keep pace with the attackers’ evolving methods.

But then Bandwidth still suffered from a damaging DDoS attack!

Not just Bandwidth but several top F100 organizations experience significant downtime caused by DDoS attacks despite mitigation solutions. This is because mitigation security policies don’t adapt to dynamic changes happening in the network, leaving around 50% of DDoS vulnerabilities undetected and, therefore, unprotected. And as highlighted earlier, attacks are getting more complex and sophisticated (e.g., new DDoS over TCP, Mirai botnet that can coordinate attacks of over 22K bots from 125 plus countries, and 17M Requests Per Second).

DDoS Vulnerabilities happen when:

  • Adding/removing servers/routers
  • Opening ports in the firewall (a new type of traffic can arrive)
  • Changing API (change from review data to review and receive data)

Since every change in the network and services requires an update to existing DDoS mitigation, it is challenging to keep up. Quarterly reviews with vendors are not enough, as it may be impossible to remember every change made to a network during the last quarter and ensure that these changes are mapped to the DDoS security policy.

What is DDoS Attack Simulation?

A DDoS simulation means launching various attacks in a controlled manner to evaluate a network’s security posture and resiliency.

DDoS protection will be completed by conducting DDoS attack simulations with maximum attacks and intensity levels. If this stimulation can be performed without causing any downtime, enterprises will have continuous ongoing visibility into their vulnerability levels, and visibility will help to remediate and ensure protection. Simulations should also be customized as per the business and security requirements.  

To ensure ongoing detection and remediation, it is essential to run non-disruptive DDoS attack simulations across the network to identify vulnerabilities. This vulnerability intelligence collection will provide a guided remediation process and specific network(s) validation.

Why You Must Simulate DDoS Attacks

It helps businesses to have more visibility into their vulnerability gap. This will also help create a prioritized remediation plan to close vulnerabilities effectively.  This is the only way to empower the existing mitigation system to immediately revalidate the protection level, ensuring that the highest level of protection is achieved.

Organizations can verify if the systems can truly protect their networks from an attack by continuously simulating DDoS attacks. It is critical to ensure that the deployed mitigation systems are prepared for the most sophisticated DDoS attacks. The simulation approach helps security teams understand DDoS vulnerabilities from an attacker’s perspective, and they can fine-tune their deployed mitigation systems to block potential DDoS attacks.

Compelling Reasons for DDoS Attack Simulation

  1. Better Preparation – Simulation ensures that existing networks and mitigation solutions are prepared for an attack before an attack strikes. Simulation provides visibility into network DDoS vulnerability gaps and helps implement security measures that address these vulnerabilities.
  2. Internal Training – Simulation helps to re-reveal vulnerabilities and helps internal network teams understand the process and work with their mitigation solution providers to close the gaps. The entire approach, from the identification of vulnerabilities to quantification and remediation, becomes seamless and ongoing.
  3. Continuous Verification – While it is only natural to trust the mitigation solution vendor to ensure protection, visibility into vulnerability gaps is essential for enterprise security.

Organizations Cannot Perform Simulations Continuously.

Organizations have minimal options to perform full-scale DDoS simulations because the solutions available require maintenance windows. In addition, DDoS simulations that require maintenance windows (for example, traditional testing solutions) are costly and essentially useless because they can validate only a limited number of attack vectors & targets at a single time.

A typical small network has around 5000 potential entry points for attackers, and only about 20 can be identified during a single maintenance period. That is just 0.4% of all entry points.

Most enterprises think of traditional DDoS pen testing as an option considering simulation. Pen testing requires running DDoS tests that simulate actual attacks under controlled circumstances on public websites. However, there is a risk factor here. Any disruption to the website coupled with a mitigation solution that is not fully equipped to mitigate these simulated attacks could result in a catastrophic situation where the website could go down, causing unintended downtime.

This disruptive nature of DDoS pen testing is often seen as an area of concern. Secondly, pen-testing has a maintenance window lasting at least three hours. Due to the effort and time required, pen testing is often conducted twice a year with a limited attack surface coverage. With the increasing frequency of attacks and the complexities involved in attack strategies, pen-testing will not suffice to prevent DDoS attacks even with a mitigation solution.

Simulate DDoS Attacks 24/7 with MazeBolt’s RADAR™

Organizations can perform automated, non-disruptive, and continuous DDoS simulations with MazeBolt’s new technology, RADAR™. Working with any mitigation solution installed, RADAR™ offers superior DDoS coverage and automated DDoS protection. RADAR™ simulates over 100 attack vectors with all public-facing IPs 24/7, giving real-time visibility to all DDoS vulnerabilities with zero downtime.

MazeBolt introduces a new standard in DDoS coverage, automatically detecting, analyzing, and prioritizing remediation across the network, doubling range, and virtually eliminating DDoS exposure without shutting down organizational operations. MazeBolt’s continuous defense supercharges the performance of CISOs and the mitigation service provider.

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