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Defending Against Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

Last Updated: Monday, November 05, 2012

We are pleased to put the finishing touches on our Denial of Service (DoS) research and distribute the paper. Unless you have had your head in the sand for the last year, you know DoS attacks are back with a vengeance, knocking down sites both big and small. That has created a situation where it’s no longer viable to ignore the threat, and we all need to think about what to do when we inevitably become a target.

This excerpt from the paper’s introduction should give you a feel for what we’re talking about.

For years security folks have grumbled about the role compliance has assumed in driving investment and resource allocation in security. It has become all about mandates and regulatory oversight driving a focus on protection, ostensibly to prevent data breaches. We have spent years in the proverbial wilderness, focused entirely on the “C” (Confidentiality) and “I” (Integrity) aspects of the CIA triad, largely neglecting “A” (Availability). Given how many breaches we still see every week, this approach hasn’t worked out too well.

Regulators pretty much only care whether data leaks out. They don’t care about the availability of systems – data can’t leak if the system is down, right? Without a clear compliance-driven mandate to address availability (due to security exposure), many customers haven’t done and won’t do anything to address availability. Of course attackers know this, so they have adapted their tactics to fill the vacuum created by compliance spending. They increasingly leverage availability-impacting attacks to both cause downtime (costing site owners money) and mask other kinds of attacks. These availability-impacting attacks are better known as Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

We focus on forward-looking research at Securosis. So we have started poking around, talking to practitioners about their DoS defense plans, and we have discovered a clear knowledge gap around the Denial of Service attacks in use today and the defenses needed to maintain availability. There is an all too common belief that the defenses that protect against run of the mill network and application attacks will stand up to a DoS. That’s just not the case, so this paper will provide detail on the attacks in use today, suggest realistic defensive architectures and tactics, and explain the basic process required to have a chance of defending your organization against a DoS attack.

DoS ToC

Direct Download (PDF): Defending Against Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

We would like to thank (in alphabetical order) Arbor Networks, Corero Network Security, F5 Networks, and Radware for licensing the content in this paper. Obviously we wouldn’t be able to do the research we do, or offer it to you folks for this most excellent price, without clients licensing our content.