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Beware these DDoS myths

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As a rapidly evolving threat, Distributed Denial of Service attacks are surrounded in a haze of confusion. DARREN ANSTEE, chief security technologist at Arbor Networks explores some of the most-common myths.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have appeared on the threat horizon as one of the most pressing issues for security experts. In today’s cloud-based, always-on business environment, DDoS attacks can pull down an organisation’s online systems, bring workflow and mission-critical processes to a halt, and cause untold reputation damage.

Yes, many businesses and organisations remain at risk, lulled into a false sense of security by believing in one, or more, of the many ‘DDoS myths’. Here are nine of the most-common examples:

1. My type of organisation isn’t a target… Big businesses are not the only targets of malicious web bots. Almost every type of organisation – from corporates to small businesses, banking, governments, hospitals, universities, schools and non-profit organisations have all suffered from debilitating attacks in the past few years.

2. The costs of DDoS protection outweigh the impact of attacks… Many organisations only wait to address the issue of DDoS protection after they have already been hit. Unfortunately, by this stage, it’s already too late and the damage has been done. Don’t fall into the trap of underestimating the combined impact of DDoS attacks at a number of levels:

·        Direct financial loss

·        Costs to recover from an attack

·        Brand damage and loss of consumer trust

·        Supply chain disruption

·        Contract fines from SLA beaches

·        Regulatory fines from compliance breaches

3. My firewall or IPS will keep me safe… While traditional perimeter security solutions are certainly vital aspects of an integrated security set-up, they are not designed specifically to cater for DDoS attacks. Attackers look for gaps in traditional security solutions, they’ll look for devices that conduct stateful inspections of network connections, and take advantage of networks that are left unguarded.

4. My Internet Service Provider guarantees protection… Remember that modern attacks blend volumetric TCP-state exhaustion and application-layer attack vectors. While ISPs upstream may well be able to detect some of the most blatant, larger attacks, it’s the more subtle application-layer attacks that can only be properly managed at the customer premises.

5. I have more than enough bandwidth to survive an attack… Some of the coordinated attacks saturate hundreds of gigs in bandwidth. In fact, Arbor’s most recent Annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report confirmed sightings of attacks of an astonishing 800Gpbs in scale. That’s 60 percent bigger than the previous year’s largest reported attack – and in the future they’ll only get worse. It’s unlikely that anyone has enough bandwidth to cater for attacks like this!

6. I have DDoS protection in place, now I can forget about it… DDoS attacks are evolving at an alarming rate – growing in scale and sophistication. They’re moving in new directions, such as connected sensors and devices like cameras and DVRs that are being weaponised into devastating zombie armies of botnets to launch massive attacks.

7. The odds of being attacked are low – I’ll take the chance… In fact, the odds of DDoS attacks hurting your business are at an all-time high. The Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report revealed that more than half of service providers are now seeing upwards of 21 attacks per month (a 44 percent increase). Twenty-one percent of data centre respondents see more than 50 attacks per month (versus only eight percent last year). Finally, a surprising 45 percent of enterprise, government and education respondents experience more than 10 attacks per month (17 percent up on the previous year).

8. DDoS isn’t an advanced threat (which is where I should focus my resources)… Arbor research shows that more than a quarter of all DDoS attacks are actually used as a diversion tactic, or smokescreen, to cover up the exfiltration of confidential data. Today’s sophisticated attacker often uses a combination of techniques, and DDoS attacks often have a complicated interrelationship with other forms of advanced threats.

9. All DDoS protection tools are the same… There is a vast difference between vendors and between different solutions. Ensure you select a trusted provider with deep experience and resources dedicated to the field of DDoS security. Ensure you have a specialised market-leading DDoS protection, as a key component of your broader security estate.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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