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Hybrid DDoS Needs Hybrid Defense

#DDoS  #infosec #cloud #F5 acquires Defense.Net

Everyone, no doubt, can easily find one of the myriad articles and reports indicating that the volume of DDoS attacks is on the rise. Not just the frequency of but the sheer size of these attacks are growing year over year at a frightening rate.

It should be no surprise, then, that surveys like TechTarget's 2014 IT Priorities Survey indicate that 45% of respondents will be adding new capacity in network security and 35% plan on adding threat detection and management, and financial institutions are now being required by regulators to have DDoS mitigation solutions in place.

Problematic, of course, is the sheer volume in terms of bandwidth that can be consumed by an attack. With bandwidth consumption often measured in the hundreds of gigabits per second thanks to the deadly combination of amplification and reflection attack techniques, many organizations targeted by such an attack will find that their Internet connectivity is a serious obstacle in mitigating these attacks. While emerging technologies software-defined architectures and network virtualization promise to address the immediate need for additional capacity for network-related services, the reality is that if connectivity is compromised, additional capacity that lies beyond the corporate perimeter is unlikely to provide the relief needed.

Put simply: if an attacker can throw enough malicious traffic at you to completely saturate your Internet pipe, there’s simply not much an on-premise solution can do by itself.

That's why many top analysts recommend as best practices a hybrid approach to preparing for (what we're told is the inevitable) DDoS attack.

The Hybrid DDoS Approach

A hybrid approach combines an off-premise (cloud) based DDoS detection and mitigation service with on-premise protections. Such an approach allows organizations to take advantage of the greater bandwidth capacity that lies along the Internet backbone where most cloud-based DDoS providers reside when attacks oversubscribe their own connectivity while maintaining a strong security posture on-premise that can handle most volumetric attacks and is better suited to addressing more insidious application-layer DDoS attacks.

Hybrid solutions provide the resilience and scale of cloud-based solutions with the granularity and always-on capabilities of on—premise solutions. More importantly, a well-integrated hybrid DDoS architecture enables organizations to more effectively and cost-efficiently deal with threats that occur infrequently but are far more dangerous. A SANS 2012 survey on Log and Event Management indicated that for the first time respondents reported they were "unable to detect active attacks in their networks." This frightening statistic is brought to you by attackers whose goal is to overwhelm systems using network-based attacks whilst hiding more advanced, application-layer attacks amidst the noise such volumetric attacks generate.

Moreover, these attacks are made more dangerous because of the way in which organizations (naturally) respond to a DDoS attack. It's quite common for organizations that find themselves under attack to focus on preventing service outages. As computationally expensive security network services start to fail in the face of overwhelming traffic, the response is often to shut them down. That means IPS, application firewalls and anti-fraud detection systems, among others, are eliminated from the critical path. The network DDoS traffic may be detected and rejected, for the most part, but suddenly the application-layer attacks hiding in the volumetric network attack are free to make their way back to applications. Basically, the application-layer defenses are treated as ballast and tossed aside in favor of keeping the network boat afloat.

A hybrid approach can take advantage of the additional capacity available in the cloud to ensure organizations aren’t overwhelmed by the excessive volume generated by some attacks while enabling the organization to protect itself against the more frequent but easily managed attacks. A pure cloud DDoS solution can be cumbersome to implement if used to mitigate every single DDoS attacks, but worth the cost in the face of an overwhelming attack. 

A hybrid approach is certainly the best architectural approach available today for organizations to cost-efficiently mitigate the risk associated with DDoS overall, and an integrated solution that provides both a cloud and on-premise solution ensures the onboarding process is seamless.

Complementary Technology for a Hybrid DDoS Architecture

F5 sees in Defense.Net the ability to provide just such a hybrid approach to mitigating DDoS attacks whether traditional bandwidth-consuming attacks or more modern, multi-vector attacks. By combining the cloud-based services of Defense.Net with an on-premise F5 Application Delivery Firewall (ADF), organizations will be better armed to detect and mitigate DDoS attacks at the network and application layers simultaneously. 

While Defense.Net supports traditional architectural deployments - asymmetric GRE configuration and a symmetric proxy configuration - it also supports a destination NAT configuration that eliminates GRE MTU and other challenges. This approach requires only inbound traffic to be inspected, which dramatically decreases its bandwidth requirements compared to symmetric DDoS technology. It further benefits organizations in reducing the latency incurred by traditional approaches, which means less of an impact on application performance and the quality of experience demanded to keep customers and employees satisfied. 

Defense.Net's multilayer approach to scrubbing and architectural flexibility is highly complementary with F5's technology as well as our architectural vision, Synthesis. By bringing together both a cloud-based and an on-premise solution, F5 is extending its portfolio of security services to include cloud-based DDoS as a service or in the cloud as part of a broader security architecture designed to provide comprehensive DDoS coverage for applications deployed anywhere, accessed at anytime from any device.

We are excited to have the Defense.Net team and its technology join the F5 family. 

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More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.