How to prevent a DDoS attack: 7 key strategies

7 strategies to prevent DDoS attacks

Key takeaways

  • A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack is a deliberate attempt to disrupt a network's normal traffic by flooding it with too much of internet traffic.

  • DDoS attacks remain a significant threat, with a growing frequency and sophistication. In 2023, there was a 25% chance for organizations to face such attacks.

  • DDoS attacks come in various forms: application-layer attacks that target server response mechanisms, volume-based attacks that overwhelm traffic, and protocol attacks that exhaust server and network resources.

  • To prevent DDoS attacks effectively, organizations should implement a multi-layered strategy.

  • NordLayer's Cloud Firewall, a key part of its security solutions, employs segmentation principles to reduce the attack surface and filter legitimate traffic.

A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt normal traffic of a server, service, or network. It overwhelms the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of internet traffic by overloading server capacity. With the frequency of DDoS attacks increasing, it's crucial for businesses to understand and implement strategies to mitigate these threats.

While phishing attacks and malware are taking the lead on the list of cyber threats businesses are exposed to, DDoS attacks remain relevant when protecting your business. In 2023, organizations faced a 25% chance of dealing with a DDoS attack.

DDoS attack statistics

The risk of being attacked makes it relevant to include DDoS attack prevention in the organization’s cybersecurity strategy. This helps avoid any business disruption like a traffic jam to the website or unavailable service.

How does a DDoS attack work?

Understanding DDoS attacks begins with recognizing the internet traffic as a network of information exchange. 

Imagine a bustling city intersection where cars represent data packets. Now, a DDoS attack is akin to this intersection being suddenly overwhelmed by an orchestrated fleet of vehicles, blocking regular traffic. 

In the digital world, this fleet consists of numerous compromised computer systems, including personal computers and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, controlled by an attacker. These systems are often infected with malware, allowing the attacker to command them remotely.

In a DDoS attack, these hijacked systems are used as a force to generate massive amounts of network traffic, all directed at a single target, such as a website or an online service. 

This influx of traffic from multiple locations creates a massive bottleneck, flooding the target with more requests than it can handle. In this scenario, the victim struggles to differentiate between legitimate and malicious traffic, much like a security guard trying to identify troublemakers in a crowd. 

This makes it challenging to maintain normal operations without also unintentionally blocking legitimate users. Consequently, the targeted site or service becomes slow or completely unresponsive, leading to downtime and potential business losses.

Proactive DDoS defense is critical for businesses

  • At the end of 2023, companies experienced the biggest DDoS attack in the digital history. 

  • Some of the affected parties were large organizations like Google and Amazon.

  • The attack methods generally involved overwhelming the targeted systems with massive amounts of traffic spikes.

  • Affected companies confirmed that malicious actors exploited a weakness in HTTP/2 (a newer version of the HTTP network protocol).

  • The outcomes of these attacks were significant, leading to widespread service disruptions and highlighting the growing need for robust cybersecurity measures.

What are the common types of DDoS attacks?

DDoS attacks come in various forms, each uniquely crafted to disrupt, overwhelm, and hinder. 

Understanding these common attack types isn't just about knowing how they work but also about getting into the minds of the attackers. These attacks range from flooding with too much traffic to using clever requests to drain resources. 

This knowledge is crucial for anyone looking to fortify their digital defenses against these cyber threats. DDoS attacks vary in form and method, but the primary types include:

Application-layer attacks

App-layer attacks target specific aspects of an application or service. 

This type of attack focuses on the layer where servers generate responses to client requests. They use bots to overload the server by repeatedly requesting the same resource, like HTTP flood attacks, which keep sending HTTP requests using different IP addresses.

Application-layer attacks

Volume-based attacks

Volume-based–or volumetric–attacks involve overwhelming a system with large traffic volumes.

Volumetric attacks aim to deplete server resources or those of networking systems, such as firewalls or load balancers. A common example is the SYN flood attack, where numerous SYN packets are sent to a server, causing it to crash due to waiting too long for responses.

Volume-based attacks

Protocol attacks

Protocol attacks consume actual server resources or those of intermediate communication equipment, like firewalls and load balancers.

They involve bombarding a server with excessive traffic, exhausting its bandwidth. An example is the DNS amplification attack, where large numbers of DNS responses are sent to the target server, overwhelming it.

Protocol attacks

Each type of protocol attack employs different methods to overload and incapacitate servers or network resources, highlighting the need for robust and versatile defense strategies. 

7 ways to prevent DDoS attacks

Organizations must adopt comprehensive and multi-layered strategies to counter the threat of DDoS attacks effectively. Here are seven key ways to enhance your defense:

1. Enhanced network redundancy

Distributing network resources across multiple locations isn't just about avoiding a single failure point. It's like creating a web of pathways where information can travel. 

Imagine a city with multiple roads leading to the same destination. If one road is blocked, traffic smoothly diverts to the other ones. 

Similarly, in network redundancy, data centers play a crucial role. They spread traffic loads, making it difficult for DDoS attacks to target a single weak spot. This strategy is key to building several bridges, so if one falls, others still stand, ensuring the continuous data flow.

2. Robust infrastructure development

Think of your network as a fortress. The walls are your firewalls, the watchtowers are your intrusion prevention systems, and the gates are your security protocols. 

Building a robust network architecture is like fortifying this fortress with various layers of defense. This multi-tiered approach is essential in managing unexpected traffic surges. It's like having a strong foundation that can support the weight of sudden, heavy loads, ensuring that the network's flow remains uninterrupted even under the pressure of an attack.

3. Securing the network perimeter

Regularly updating and patching network systems is like continuously reinforcing the walls of your digital fortress. Each update acts like a new layer of armor, closing chinks that attackers might exploit. 

This ongoing maintenance is critical in keeping your network resilient against intrusion attempts. Monitoring IP addresses is like having vigilant guards scanning the horizon for potential threats, ready to raise the alarm and shut the gates against malicious intruders before they can breach your network's defenses.

4. DDoS protection services

Utilizing DDoS protection services is akin to having an elite security team with advanced tools at your disposal. 

These services, including Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) solutions, are like specialized agents trained to recognize and neutralize specific threats. They keep a watchful eye for volumetric attacks, ensuring your network remains safeguarded against massive, disruptive traffic influxes. 

Think of these services as your rapid response team, always ready to spring into action to maintain the sanctity of your network.

5. Proactive traffic monitoring

Consistent network traffic monitoring is like having a high-tech surveillance system. It lets you detect unusual activity patterns, like traffic spikes, which could signal an upcoming DDoS attack. 

This kind of vigilance enables a swift response, preventing potential threats from escalating. It’s about being one step ahead, recognizing the signs of trouble before they blow up into full-scale attacks.

6. Incident response planning

Having a well-defined incident response plan for DDoS attacks is like having a detailed emergency drill.

Your team knows exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to act. This preparation is key to dealing with threats efficiently, ensuring minimal operational disruption. A good response plan is a playbook that guides your team through a crisis, minimizing chaos and confusion.

7. Employee training

Educating staff about DDoS attack signs and response measures turns your employees into a frontline defense. It’s like training every individual in your organization to spot potential threats and react promptly. 

When your team can recognize early warning signs, such as unusual network slowdowns, they become an integral part of your defense strategy, contributing to quick threat identification and mitigation. This collective awareness is a powerful tool in maintaining the overall security posture of your network.

How NordLayer can help

NordLayer provides a comprehensive approach to network security, with its Cloud Firewall being a standout feature in its arsenal against digital threats, including DDoS attacks. 

This Cloud Firewall is designed not just as a barrier but as a smart filter that adapts to your network's unique needs. It employs segmentation principles, which are critical to dividing a large, vulnerable surface into smaller, more manageable, and secure zones. 

NordLayer's Cloud Firewall effectively narrows the attack surface by segmenting the network. This is crucial because a smaller attack surface is less attractive and more challenging for attackers to exploit.

The segmentation works by categorizing network traffic and access points, thus allowing only legitimate and necessary communication to pass through. This targeted filtering significantly reduces the risk of malicious traffic infiltrating the network. 

Are you considering implementing NordLayer’s Cloud Firewall to your security infrastructure to prevent DDoS attacks and other risks? Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive, secure network access solution now.


What are the first steps in DDoS protection?

To initiate DDoS protection, start by evaluating your network's vulnerabilities. Identify critical assets and potential attack vectors. Implementing a robust network infrastructure with redundancy is crucial. This means having your resources spread across various data centers, ensuring no single point of failure. It's like diversifying your defenses across multiple fortresses instead of just one. Doing so creates a resilient network that's harder to compromise, significantly helping to prevent attacks.

How can I mitigate DDoS attacks through network configuration?

Mitigating DDoS attacks starts with smart network configuration. Use techniques like rate limiting, which controls the amount of traffic a server accepts over a specific period. Implement geofencing to block or limit traffic from regions that aren't relevant to your business. Also, configure your network hardware to reject malformed packets and filter out traffic likely to be part of an attack. These steps form a proactive barrier, helping to prevent attacks before they escalate.

Can a firewall stop a DDoS attack?

Cloud firewalls play a crucial role in DDoS attack prevention. They can filter out some malicious traffic and protect against certain attack types. Additional DDoS mitigation measures, such as specialized services and traffic monitoring, are often necessary to effectively counter these attacks. It's essential to have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that combines firewall defenses with other security layers for robust DDoS protection.

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