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Secondhand DDoS: Why hosting providers need to take action

3/10/2014 by


Unfortunately, the sheer size and scale of hosting or datacenter operator network infrastructures and their massive customer base presents an incredibly attractive attack surface due to the multiple entry points and significant aggregate bandwidth that acts as a conduit for a damaging and disruptive DDoS attack. As enterprises increasingly rely on hosted critical infrastructure or services, they are placing themselves at even greater risk from these devastating cyber threats – even as an indirect target.

What is secondhand DDoS?

The multi-tenant nature of cloud-based data centres and shared, hosted environments can be less than forgiving for unsuspecting tenants. A DDoS attack, volumetric in nature against one tenant, can lead to disastrous repercussions for others; a domino effect of latency issues, service degradation and potentially damaging and long lasting service outages.

The excessive amount of malicious traffic bombarding a single tenant during a volumetric DDoS attack can have adverse effects on other tenants as well as the overall data centre or hosting providers operation. In fact, it is becoming more common that attacks on a single tenant or service can completely choke up the shared infrastructure and bandwidth resources, resulting in the entire data centre can be taken offline or severely slowed – AKA, secondhand DDoS.

Black-holing or black-hole routing is a common, crude defense against DDoS attacks, which is intended to mitigate secondhand DDoS. With this approach, the cloud or hosting provider blocks all packets destined for a domain by advertising a null route for the IP address (es) under attack. There are a number of problems with utilising this approach for defending against DDoS attacks: Most notably is the situation where multiple tenants share a public IP address range.

In this case, all customers associated with the address range under attack will lose all service, regardless of whether they were a specific target of the attack. In effect, the data centre or hosting operator has finished the attacker’s job by completely DoS’ing their own customers. Furthermore, injection of null-routes is a manual process, which requires human analysts, workflow processes and approvals; increasing the time to respond to the attack, leaving all tenants of the shared environment suffering the consequences for extended periods of time, potentially hours.

The growing dependence on the Internet makes the impact of successful DDoS attacks-financial and otherwise-increasingly painful for service providers, enterprises, and government agencies. And newer, more powerful DDoS tools promise to unleash even more destructive attacks in the months and years to come.

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