With the rise of botnets, a well-structured DDoS protection service is mandatory.

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack uses multiple compromised systems or other network resources to overwhelm an online service, making it unavailable.

Look at some important stats on the rise of these attacks:

  • $150- For a week-long attack
  • 1/3- Of all downtime is due to DDoS attacks
  • 125%- Increase in DDoS attacks last year

Such attacks create massive business risks. And they are increasing in volume and frequency. Digital Attack Map provides daily visualization for such attacks globally.

Irrespective of the business size or location, DDoS security is mandatory today. Here are 7 best practices and a bonus most effective application DDOS protection tip $8 that will help you get started.

1. Recognize Attack Types

Your ability to identify the attack type before attackers is an integral part of the protection program. There are three common types of attacks that your business may encounter.

  • Layer 7, Application Layer or HTTP Flooding

This kind of application layer attacks target an application with requests from multiple sources. Such attacks generate high volumes of the POST, GET or HTTP requests causing service downtime ranging from hours to weeks. Layer 7 is widely used to bring down e-commerce, banking and startup websites due to the low cost and ease of operation.

  • UDP Amplification

An attacker chokes the target server or network with open NTP or DNS with request traffic. This traffic on Layer 3 or 4 (Network or Transport) is amplified with payload traffic is massive in comparison to the size of the request, hence overwhelming the service.

  • DNS Flooding

Disrupting DNS resolution can also make an application, network or server unavailable.

2. Create a DDoS Attack Threat Model

To keep up with exponential growth and customer demands, most new-age businesses struggle with web resources inventory. New applications, systems, customer portals, marketing domains, payment gateways, and other resources are created and retired frequently. Are your web resources organized?

Create a database of all the web assets that you’d like to be protected from DDoS attacks, as an inventory sheet. It should contain network details, protocols in use, domains, number of applications, their use, last updated version, and so forth.

DDoS Attack Protection

3. Set DDoS Priority Buckets

Are all the web resources equal? What are the assets that you’d want to be protected first?

Begin with defining priorities and criticality of your web resources. For instance, business and data-centric web resources should be under the critical bucket with 24/7 protection against all kinds of DDoS attacks.

  • Critical: Put all the assets that can compromise business transactions or your reputation. Hacker will have a higher motivation to target these resources first.
  • High: This bucket should include web assets that can hamper day-to-day business operations.
  • Normal: Everything else should be included here.

You can create another priority bucket for networks, domains, applications and other services that are no longer in use. Move them out of the business operation network as soon as possible.

4. Test and Patch Vulnerabilities

Irrespective of the layer of DDoS attack, testing and patching should be a priority across the business. While volumetric attacks can hurt any business, vulnerabilities provide hackers other means to exploit.

  • Test all the web resources for vulnerabilities daily, or as frequently as possible.
  • Deploy patches and updates on priority. The lag between availability and deployment in applications, systems, and networks often leads to attacks.
  • Stay updated on zero-day vulnerabilities and their patches.

DDoS Protection

5. Get DDoS Protection Tools

There are many tools available in the market that help you detect and defend critical web resources from DDoS attacks. It is important to understand that these tools fall under any of the distinct categories- Detection and Mitigation.

  • Detection: Irrespective of the layer of attack, mitigation depends on your ability to detect fake traffic surges before they cause any serious damage. Majority of the DDoS protection tools rely on signatures and source details to warn you. They rely on traffic hitting critical mass, which affects service availability. However, detection alone is not enough and needs manual intervention to look at the data and to apply protection rules.
  • Automated Mitigation: Can DDoS protection be automated? Many anti-DDoS solutions direct or block fake traffic based on preconfigured rules and policies. While automatic filtering of bad traffic on application or network layer is desirable, attackers have found newer ways of beating these policies, especially on the application layer.

The frequency and strength of attacks on application layer have forced business owners to look beyond network options. The above-mentioned tools would fail to provide thorough protection against layer 7 attacks.

6. Deploy Web Application Firewall

Layer 7 DDoS attacks are more difficult to stop. Traffic from such attacks mimic normal user behavior and requires application layer expertise for detection and mitigation. In comparison to Layer 3 or Layer 4 DDoS attacks, Layer 7 attacks are more likely to cause financial and reputational damage.


A Web Application Firewall (WAF) or Layer 7 Firewall is the best defense against volumetric attacks. It blocks malicious traffic trying to block vulnerabilities in the application. However, WAF such as AppTrana backs DDoS protection with round-the-clock monitoring from security experts to identify fake traffic surges and to block them without affecting legitimate traffic.

7. Monitor Incoming Traffic

Traffic logs provide minute-to-minute updates on communications taking on your application or network. There are gigabytes of data streaming across multiple locations. And monitoring it all at a single location provides an excellent view of anomalies.

Continuous traffic flow monitoring and analysis will help your organization learn from historic attack data and attack patterns.

Moreover, centralized monitoring becomes even more critical in the application layer. Your cybersecurity team can flag traffic surges based on anomalies, botnet signatures, and suspicious behavior.

BONUS TIP: Deploy WAF with a Custom Workflow DDOS/Bot Rule

Central to most businesses today is applications. The major worry prompting businesses to take preventive steps against a DDoS attack is to protect their applications from going down. Also, DDoS attacks targeted at the application layer are increasing as the attacker’s goal for causing damage can be achieved with lesser compute resources and lesser time in a more targeted fashion by gearing the attack payloads at an application layer.

A WAF will inspect traffic at an application layer, raise alerts and block if there are volumes of malicious application payloads being sent to the application. Besides raising alerts, every block event can be a trigger to also take incrementally stronger defense posture and insights of other payloads coming from the same IP session and take more aggressive actions without worrying about False positives.

What makes application DDoS detection most challenging is payloads can be crafted such that each individual request looks perfectly legitimate but are bombarding the application and its CPU cycle by sending many of perfectly legitimate request. (example fill up a form and post it and force the backend application to spend CPU cycles on many such concurrent requests). To counter this, custom policies that can distinguish normal human transaction from an automated one can go a long way in countering application level DDoS attacks.

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