Atlantic.Net Blog

What is a DDoS and how do we prevent our business from being attacked?

Derek Wiedenhoeft September 7, 2017 by under Managed Hosting 0 Comments

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been happening for years, but have become steadily more prominent among enterprise IT considerations. This is in large part due to the increasing amount of damage inflicted by DDoS attacks, which is caused by both the increasing power and sophistication of the attacks, and also the critical importance of IT systems availability to enterprises.

A DDoS attack is a coordinated flood of traffic or data sent from many computers and internet connections to a single destination system in order to overwhelm it. The attack can be made against different parts or “levels” of the network, taking up all of the connections, bandwidth, or processing power available. DDoS attacks can cause a general system failure or take down a certain application or service.

There are approximately 2,000 DDoS attacks every day, according to Arbor Networks, and research suggests that roughly one in three downtime incidents are caused by them. The cost of that downtime is severe, but the cost of restoring system functionality can be even higher. Additionally, there are indirect costs, such as to reputation, and lost staff time. The Ponemon Institute estimates that the average cost per incident, not including reputational damage, is over $125,000.

Hackers execute these costly attacks for a variety of reasons, including for gain through extortion or sabotage, but also “hacktivism,” or to test or prove their capacity to carry them out.

A DDoS attack against DNS provider Dyn that took down some of the internet’s most popular sites in October 2016 showed not just the scale the problem has reached, but also the scope of “collateral damage” caused by the attacks, and the reality that businesses can face them even without being targeted. High profile attacks of this kind can give people the impression that the hackers are winning, no-one is safe, and the situation is hopeless. There are things every company can do, however, to avoid or minimize the damage of DDoS attacks.

How does DDoS Work?

To carry out a DDoS attack, the hacker typically builds a network of many computers that can be controlled remotely by infecting them with malware. The network is known as a “botnet,” and it provides the necessary volume of requests or data to overwhelm the attack target. Any device which connects to the internet can be used, and IoT devices are becoming popular for use by hackers in botnets.

What is a DDoS

What is a DDoS

The frequency of DDoS attacks has significantly increased in part due to the availability of attack kits on the dark web. Hackers can purchase tools from secret forums and online markets, allowing them to quickly and easily build enormous botnets. Hackers also sell individual attacks as a service on the dark web.

With the botnet constructed and a target chosen, the hacker carries out the attack. The most common types of attacks include volumetric attacks, protocol attacks, and application attacks.

A volumetric attack is an attempt by a hacker to fill the victim’s bandwidth, most often with a large volume of a certain type of data packet sent to the victim. In the most common version, the hacker simultaneously sends out a batch of User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets that appear to come from the victim. The computers that receive the packets send responses, which are larger, to the victim, until the victim’s network is overwhelmed.

Protocol attacks are also known as state-exhaustion attacks, and take advantage of the way computers communicate. The victim’s network often ends up waiting for a response that never ends up coming. This ends up taking a connection spot from the maximum number of possible connections a service is set to accept.

Application attacks target a vulnerability in a certain program, using behaviour like downloading that can resemble normal human traffic, and therefore can go undetected until they have succeeded in taking the down the server.  For this reason, protecting against them requires proactive monitoring to distinguish the attack traffic from real visitor traffic.

Each type of attack basically targets a bottleneck somewhere in the network, which means that preventing and mitigating them begins with identifying the different kinds of potential bottlenecks present in your network, and addressing them.

DDoS Success

There are a number of steps enterprises can take to guard against DDoS attacks. First, the network environment can be built or adjusted to avoid vulnerabilities and bottlenecks, which are also known in networking as “single points of failure.” Next, DDoS detection and mitigation tools, like firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention appliances can be deployed to prepare the enterprise. Finally, monitoring the network and managing its updates and backups keeps the system healthy and allows for early warning of an attack.

Networks that are served from different data centers, and that have different routes for traffic to travel tend to be more resistant to DDoS attacks than those served from one building, because affected areas can be avoided. Every environment should have at least one dedicated firewall in front of any applications sensitive to attacks. Other important steps include employing technologies like intrusion detection and vulnerability scans. Making sure these protections are available for your network is part of choosing the right host.

With the right protections, even large, sophisticated DDoS attacks can be mitigated. Google’s Project Shield protects websites of potential DDoS targets like journalists and non-governmental organizations. Google filters traffic, and also saves copies of websites to different locations and serving them from there, leveraging its massive scale. It has mitigated some of the largest attacks ever recorded, including one on cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs in September 2016.

Software-as-a-Service company ShareSafe had experienced DDoS attacks prior to selecting Atlantic.Net, and was down for up to four hours, according to ShareSafe CTO and CSO John Beck.  After switching to Atlantic.Net, the company was hit with two DDoS attacks last year, and on both occasions its services were restored within five minutes.

Steps to Prevent DDoS Downtime

There are some good resources available on the web for enterprises looking for cybersecurity best practices to prevent and minimize damage from DDoS attacks. One good starting point is a guide from IBM’s Security Intelligence, which provides steps for securing your network and planning ahead for what you will do under attack. The guide identifies several features of Atlantic.Net’s security protection as important steps to take against DDoS attacks, including vulnerability scans and intrusion detection, which can be used to build a customized solution for your business.

Letting Atlantic.Net’s cybersecurity experts architect a solution can help ensure its effectiveness.  Hosting environments built with load balancing and failover capabilities help maintain consistent operation while under attack, and for cases of prolonged DDoS attacks which take down a firewall, failover firewalls are also available. In an environment with multiple load balanced nodes, requests can still be served by directing them away from traffic blocked during the attack.

A DDoS attack is a coordinated flood of traffic or data sent from many computers and internet connections to a single destination system in order to overwhelm it.

A DDoS attack is a coordinated flood of traffic or data sent from many computers and internet connections to a single destination system in order to overwhelm it.

Atlantic.Net’s Network Operations Center monitors the networks 24/7 to block or mitigate hazardous traffic. Operating out of six data centers, Atlantic.Net provides the geographic distribution and diversity of traffic routes necessary to avoid areas under attack, and keep your network and website up.

The variety of different DDoS attacks, their frequency, and the damage they frequently inflict can be intimidating, and the methods of dealing with them are necessarily multi-faceted. Hosts like Atlantic.Net, and security providers like Atlantic.Net partner Trend Micro, however, have the experience and knowledge to help.  Leverage that help, and you can prepare your business to stay online, minimize damage, and get on with what you do best.

Atlantic.Net’s Managed Services

With Atlantic.Net’s Managed Services and custom solutions, you get what your business needs to be protected from modern-day cybersecurity threats, all backed by decades of expert-level experience. Everything is custom-built and setup to suit your needs, from our Atlantic.Net Managed Firewall and Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems to Atlantic.Net’s Edge Protection and Load Balancing. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable Sales team today for more information and to find out how to get started protecting your business.


Finding a Database Hosting Solution for Your Small Business

Derek Wiedenhoeft August 25, 2017 by under Managed Hosting 0 Comments

If you’re talking about innovation and competition in the modern economy, you will inevitably wind up talking about the subject of data. It’s no secret that we rely on data for everything whether it be strategy or tactics. This, of course, leads us to the topic of “big data” which for the past decade has been touted as the difference maker in a business’ ability to gain a better understanding of the complex factors, including customer behaviors, that are contributing to a business’ success or even failure.

Of course, simply collecting the data isn’t the whole story. There are infrastructure concerns that need to be met when implementing large databases. You need somewhere to keep your database. Not only that, but the hardware needs to be up to the task of handling the processing power required to run the database and allow it to be accessible. Many small businesses are turning to Cloud Hosting as the solution that fits their needs best.

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I Need a Web Hosting Solution for My Small Business. How Do I Choose?

Derek Wiedenhoeft August 25, 2017 by under Managed Hosting 0 Comments

You’ve just started your own business and things are going well. Most likely, you’ve been growing steadily at the local level. This means most of your success has been thanks to word of mouth, existing networks, and direct orders of your product or service. This is relatively sustainable for the short term, but there inevitably comes a time where you exhaust these local networks and need to move on into new markets where you may not already have a foothold.

In the age of an overwhelmingly digital focused economy, gaining these footholds and reaching untapped audiences means developing a web presence. In 2017, it isn’t news to business owners that it’s very difficult, if not almost impossible, to succeed without a web presence of some kind. Staying competitive, reaching consumers who do their research primarily online, and advertising is just some of the reasons why executives agree that every small business needs a website.

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How Secure is the Cloud?

Adnan Raja August 12, 2017 by under Cloud Hosting 0 Comments

Organizations migrating to a new IT environment, such as the Cloud, should always give serious consideration to the security of that environment. But how secure is the Cloud? If you don’t know exactly what piece of hardware your private data is found on at a given time, how do you know it is secure?

For those relatively new to Cloud, the first thing to be aware of is that while some of the tools and methods used to secure a network and data in the Cloud are different, the basic principles are the same as for any other environment. The next thing to know is that because the Cloud runs in data centers staffed by experts in Cloud services, data stored in the Cloud is “probably more secure than conventionally stored data,” according to Quentin Hardy, former Deputy Technology Editor of the New York Times[i].

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Safety in Redundancy: Why It’s Important to Have Multiple Backups

Derek Wiedenhoeft August 3, 2017 by under Managed Hosting 0 Comments

Everyone is familiar with the idiom, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” It’s a good general rule to operate under, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the safety of your data. Whether it’s the files that make up your website or a database with sensitive information, it’s critical to your operations that there is always some way to restore your data so that you don’t suffer from excessive downtime, or worse, be noncompliant with certain regulatory agencies depending on the industry you operate in. Yes, your backup solutions, or lack thereof, could be putting you at risk of being in violation of some laws.

If your business operates within the healthcare industry and creates electronic medical records, there are specific requirements in place regarding not only the storage of EMRs but also where you back up these records. These requirements can be found in the HIPAA Security Final Rule: the Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Specifications. There are certain backup elements that must meet contingency plan standards.

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Security Penetration Testing: What It Is and Why You Need It

Derek Wiedenhoeft August 1, 2017 by under Managed Hosting 0 Comments

If your bank is requiring your company to perform a penetration test as part of your PCI compliance, you’re not alone. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) are now requiring penetration testing (or pen tests) for all organizations that accept credit card payments. It’s an added way to ensure the security of credit card transactions and associated storage practices.

So what, exactly, is penetration testing? It’s a way to test your system’s security by trying to exploit its weaknesses. In the same way that the Federal Reserve requires FDIC-insured banks to undergo stress tests, penetration tests are safe methods of attempting to identify security weaknesses in your systems.  As the saying goes, one of the best ways to help protect against hacks into your systems is for someone you trust to try hacking into your systems. This will allow you to rectify security issues before they can be exploited by unauthorized individuals.

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Can You Learn HIPAA Compliance in 5 Minutes?

With anything that’s complex and multi-faceted, it is not always easy to explain it to others. Oddly enough, it sometimes seems especially difficult to convey ideas when we are highly trained in the subject. We start to take the broader, basic-to-intermediate knowledge we have for granted, glossing over it as we focus at a higher level. Conversely, when we are learning about something new, it helps when we can get simplified, “boiled-down” essentials without any unnecessary legal jargon or other distractions. Well, here is an attempt to get to the essence, a Quick-Start Guide of sorts for HIPAA compliance that should only take you another 270 seconds or so to read. Forgive the lack of transitions from here forward – nuts and bolts only!

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We can’t keep up with IT and we need help!

Derek Wiedenhoeft July 12, 2017 by under Cloud Hosting 0 Comments

Until recently, businesses adapted to the computer age by purchasing desktop systems and possibly servers, to run a local area network, and maybe a website. IT needs have changed, however, with cloud-based productivity applications, electronic records, and mobile workforces. Keeping up with these and related innovations is vital to business efficiency and profitability, but IT teams tasked with making every digital element in the organization work — and work together – are often overwhelmed, leading to system failures and major problems for business operations.

Businesses typically have different expectations from their IT systems than even a decade ago, and therefore should adapt their approach to IT.  For many, this means closing down that old server room; the number of businesses hosting their network on-premises is projected to fall from 31 percent to 17 percent by 2018. Correspondingly, budget allocations for hosting services will rise by an average of 20 percent for 2017, according to 451 Research.

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Finding HIPAA Hosting Solutions as a Small Business Owner

Operating within the healthcare industry can be challenging. There are many moving parts that must be accounted for, whether you’re a new startup firm or a large network of hospitals. When most small business owners are looking for hosting solutions, the only concerns are cost and the capability of the hardware to meet the needs of a website. The options are endless when it comes to finding simple hosting. When it comes to firms in the medical sector, there are special considerations to be had.

Your hosting options are significantly narrowed when looking for HIPAA-compliant hosting. Small business owners working in healthcare must seek out hosting companies that specialize in HIPAA compliance. Relatively speaking, few hosting companies can provide this service because of what it entails. Powerful hardware is just one part of the equation. There must also be a long list of security measures put in place to protect sensitive data. This strict set of regulations is the reason why you can’t trust your hosting with just anyone. It’s also why many hosting companies can’t offer this service and why trying to establish local infrastructure to handle these duties isn’t the best option. Part 2 of this document released by the SANS Institute delineates what is required at the local level to remain compliant with HIPAA regulations.  Maintaining HIPAA compliance at the hardware level is cost-prohibitive for most firms and a host is required.

Finding a hosting provider that can meet your organization’s needs can seem daunting, but there are a number of things to be aware of when seeking out a HIPAA-compliant hosting solution. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when looking for the right hosting solution for your business.

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SSAE 16, SSAE18, SOC 1, SOC2: What they are and why you should care

Cloud computing has revolutionized the world of software licensing, but it has also opened the gates to new security risks. In the past, if a company wanted to add new software, it had to endure long installation processes on local servers. This gave companies the opportunity to verify the reliability of their systems, while local hosting gave them more control over their data. However, it was also immensely time-consuming and costly to set up and maintain.

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