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Denial-of-Service Attacks and the Cloud

  
  
  

denied resized 600Denial-of-Service attacks are nothing new, and they’ve been a thorn in the side of data center managers and IT staff for decades now. For most organizations a decade ago, DOS attacks were often little more than an annoyance, and meant restricted email or Internet access for a short time. Unless your organization depended greatly on an ecommerce portal, a DOS attack probably wouldn’t rate in the list of top five causes of a loss of service for your organization.

Today, however, the world has changed. Organizations are relying in an increasing fashion on cloud computing solutions, which means that more than just your external email is at risk. Here are some of the trends you can observe right now when it comes to DOS attacks and the cloud:

• Distributed DOS attacks currently pose a serious threat to the cloud. There was a time when DDOS attacks were almost always the result of a single worm. Clean the worm, and you end the attack. Today, however, botnets are being used in increasingly creative ways to deny service, which makes it much more difficult to troubleshoot and resolve this sort of attack.

• Today’s denial of service attacks focus on specific apps. A hacker doesn’t need to attack your entire infrastructure anymore. They can simply choose the most resource-intensive app that you’re running on the cloud and use simple low-bandwidth attacks to take out your access to that service. Secure HTTP is a good example of this. Knock out the application in the cloud, and you cripple the organization.

• Co-location poses other unique threats. When your cloud services reside with a provider, you need to worry not only about attacks on your cloud resources, but on the resources of other tenants. It becomes even more critical to make sure that your cloud service providers have sufficient facility protection. You might not know your neighbors, but you should definitely know your landlord.

• Cloud computing offers unique opportunities to recover quickly from DOS attacks. Because cloud computing has the ability to rapidly provision resources, DOS attacks can be easier to recover from. The much-touted agility of the cloud really comes into play during a DOS attack.

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