A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) (pronounced dēˌdôs) attack is arguably one of the most malicious types of cyber threats. They are relatively simple, so even a novice cyber ne’er-do-well can cause harm and havoc for their target. A DDoS attack’s express purpose is to shut down or otherwise incapacitate the target’s online systems. In this article, successful investor and tech enthusiast, Dan Calugar will discuss several ways banks and financial institutions can protect their assets and prevent DDoS attacks.
Originally called Denial of Service (DoS) attacks because the disruptive traffic originated from a single computer. The word “distributed” was added to the moniker as threat actors learned to harness and weaponize tens of thousands of unsuspecting computers and devices to amplify the effects of their attack. Modern DDoS attacks leverage the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices around the world, turning these devices into “zombies” or “bots.” Many IoT devices are left largely unprotected from malicious take-over payloads.
On October 21, 2016, a major Domain Name Service (DNS) provider, Dyn, was attacked by a one terabit per second tsunami of internet traffic that became the new record for a DDoS attack. The traffic knocked Dyn’s services offline, causing several high-profile websites, including GitHub, HBO, Twitter, Reddit, PayPal, Netflix, and Airbnb, to go down as well.
Crippling a competitor, hacktivism, politics, revenge, and plain old bragging rights have all been cited as the motivations behind DDoS attacks. In some cases, bad-actors have used DDoS as an element of a ransom scheme designed to extort money from companies. DDoS traffic is sometimes used as a decoy as hackers execute secondary attacks designed to install malware or exfiltrate sensitive data.
Financial institutions are especially vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Data shows that DDoS attacks are the most frequent type of cyber attack used against financial services firms. They make up an estimated 32 percent of reported attacks. As the storied bank robber, Willie Sutton reportedly said when asked why he robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is,” modern financial institutions are often victimized by hackers wishing to extort funds.
For financial services companies, it’s not if, but when they will experience a DDoS attack. Many Chief Security Officers understand that the first step to mitigating DDoS attacks is to include these incidents in the business’s overall disaster recovery plan. Having a plan that outlines how the organization will react will help to protect the company’s reputation. An uncoordinated response to a cyber incident can further exacerbate the effects of the attack.
Cybersecurity tools are designed to closely monitor activity on an enterprise’s network. They are built to recognize the telltale signs of an impending DDoS attack. The early warning provides an opportunity for cybersecurity professionals to divert resources and execute contingency plans.
The economics of DDoS mitigation and attacks are slanted towards the attackers right now. Banking institutions need more efficient tools and advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to balance the equation and make DDoS defense more effective and economical.