DDoS season

We are, it seems, in the midst of a wave of distributed denial of service attacks. The victims include:

  • Neustar’s UltraDNS. (Problems with specific regional DNS clusters, with little customer-visible impact.)
  • Register.com. (Severe impact on Web hosting and email customers.)
  • GoGrid. (Severe impact on cloud hosting customers.)
  • ThePlanet. (Attack on their DNS servers, with severe impact on customers.)

The attack on ThePlanet is unusual in that it received minimal attention in the press, despite the company being one of the largest Web hosters, and having Cisco Guard (DDoS mitigation) appliances in place. Also, the status updates were eventually issued via Twitter, rather than a more expected form of customer communication. Here’s the full text, aggregated off Twitter:

Between 2:30am and 5:00am CDT on April 8, The Planet’s name servers were flooded again with a large brute force (DDoS) attack. Unlike the previous attack, this attack did not appear to be DNS-specific; instead, targeted resources indirectly supporting DNS services. Because the nature of this attack was different from the previous event, mirroring the response to the previous attack was ineffective. Once our investigation determined the nature of the attack, we applied filters throughout our DNS support system to alleviate the effects. The Planet’s network and DNS performance have been restored, and the attack originator has ceased actions. Any lingering issues may be indicative of a different problem that may have been exacerbated by the attack and should be resolved quickly. We are working on several projects to help mitigate similar attacks in the future. Once those plans are in order, we will update the DNS Status announcement thread in our community forums. We understand that other providers are experiencing similar events. We will reach out to them, pool our information and then work together to find consistencies between attacks. Our goal is to establish best practices as an industry to better respond to these recent events.

Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks claims these attacks are not Conficker at work, which makes this wave of attacks even more interesting.

The takeaway from this: Customers understand if you get DDoS’d. They don’t put up with a lack of communication. It’s enormously difficult to communicate with customers in the midst of a crisis, especially one that takes down customer-facing infrastructure in a customer-impacting way, but it’s also incredibly critical. Clearly, not everyone in the company is out trying to troubleshoot the problem, so you can usefully put them to work reaching out to your customers, if you have the policies and procedures in place to do so successfully.

Something to think about today, no matter who you are and who you work for: What policies do you have in place for customer communications when a crisis hits your company? (Book recommendation: Eric Dezenhall’s Damage Control, which is a hard-edged, realistic look at communication in a crisis, including coping with competitors who are deliberately fanning the negative-PR flames.)

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Posted on April 13, 2009, in Infrastructure and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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