On Friday, October 21, 2016, major websites across the East Coast were brought down due to a massive cyberattack on the servers of Dyn, a major Domain Name System (DNS) provider. According to Dyn, the attackers had used a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack where servers are made unavailable by flooding it with high levels of unwanted traffic from multiple sources.
As a DNS provider, Dyn essentially acts similarly to the Yellow Pages, ensuring web addresses make it to the correct website. And once a DNS provider goes down, it also takes down various online services along with it, as computers will no longer be able to receive directions to a website. This is the reason why hundreds of popular websites – from Twitter to Spotify to Airbnb and even The New York Times – were unreachable for hours on Friday.
What businesses can learn from the incident
Because of the incident, many businesses are now worried: if a major infrastructure such as Dyn can be brought down by cybercriminals, how much more ordinary enterprises can just as easily be hacked? Truth be told, even small businesses can be crippled by DDoS attack if it is aimed directly at their Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network. A DDoS attack could render a business’ VoIP network useless by targeting the routers with a flood of traffic or bombarding the network with unnecessary call signaling messages. This can prevent a business from making or receiving a call via their VoIP system.
So what can you do to protect your network? Follow these steps to ensure you are informed and ready:
- Identify a DDoS attack early
While DDoS attacks are difficult to deal with as they occur, recognizing a DDoS attack early on will help you mitigate and block it before it causes too much trouble. However, it may not always be easy to tell if you’re experiencing normal spikes in your network or if you’re already being attacked. So it’s important that you understand what your typical traffic pattern looks like.
Another way to prepare for a DDoS attack is through over-provisioning or buying more bandwidth than you need. This is especially important as the holiday season approaches, where you may experience a sudden surge of holiday phone orders or customer service calls. Over-provisioning lets you accommodate an increasing number of phone calls and lets you adjust your resources in the event of a DDoS attack.
- Choose a reliable business phone provider
Make sure you are prepared to weather the storm from the start by choosing a reliable business phone provider that puts a premium on the security of your business communications. Virtual PBX, for instance, offers 24/7 performance monitoring of your network to ensure your network is clean and secure. It also helps you stay updated with all the relevant security patches to keep your business protected.
- Turn off remote access to IoT devices
Although there is still an ongoing criminal investigation on the attack, Dyn has confirmed that a significant volume of attack traffic was from Mirai-infected devices. Mirai is a malware that targets Internet of Things (IoT) devices (such as digital cameras, printers, and routers) and turns them into bots to use in cyber attacks. To avoid being victimized by insecure IoT devices, be sure to turn off remote access to your IoT devices in the workplace. If possible, restrict access to these devices to your local network only.
DDoS attacks are not only highly inconvenient; they can also be detrimental to companies especially if they target a business’ lifeline: your phone system. This is why it’s important to stay vigilant about cyber crime and adopt safety measures to keep your business communications secure.