DDoS attacks made worse by firewalls

Firewalls and IPS put in wrong place on networks

The rising tide of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) is being made much worse by a tendency to mis-deploy firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) in front of servers, a report by Arbor Networks has found.

The company surveyed 111 global service providers across fixed and mobile sectors for its 2010 Infrastructure Security Report and uncovered a huge jump in DDoS attack size during the year. Maximum attack sizes reached 100Gbit/s for the first time, double that for 2009, and ten times the peak size seen as recently as 2005, increasingly in the form application attacks rather than simple packet flooding.

Attack frequency also appears to be increasing, with 25 percent of respondents seeing 10 or more DDoS attacks per month, and 69 percent experiencing at least one.

But according to Arbor, service providers and corporate could significantly reduce their DDoS vulnerability by designing their security infrastructure to better locate policy-based security devices such as firewalls.

During 2010, nearly half of all respondents had experienced a failure of their firewall or IPS due to DDoS, something that could have been avoided in many cases using better router security configuration.

"They [firewalls] should not be placed in front of servers. Folks do it because they have been programmed to do it," says Arbor's solutions architect, Roland Dobbins. In many cases, these devices became immediate bottlenecks in the face of DDoS, achieving the attackers' aims with ease.

Firewalls and IPS were fine for LANs where they filtered outgoing traffic, but turned into obvious points of failure when used as a barrier to protect servers receiving large volumes of inbound packets, he says.

One thing that is clear form Arbor's report is that DDoS size will go on increasing, fed ironically by increased investment in defences against DDoS generally. Rather like the growth in spam after the advent of efficient filtering, better defences force attackers to up their game, throwing more and more traffic at targets in the hope of having some effect.

An interesting blind spot suggested by Arbor could be mobile networks, which Dobbins describes as being almost "accidental ISPs."

Currently, mobile providers know almost nothing about the state of the handsets using their services, despite half reporting security problems with customers. The same proportion reported outages due to security incidents, which suggests that such networks could become the next frontier for criminals to attack Internet targets.

"They don't have visibility into their IP network. They are almost a decade behind," says Dobbins of providers in this space.

Longer term, a missing piece of the DDoS defence is policing, witha significant minority of respondents expressing a lack of confidence in law enforcement. Many of the sceptical see no point in reporting attacks to the law and have little hope of it doing much good even when they do.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags arbor networksRolandNetworkingsecurity

More about Arbor NetworksIPSRoland

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place