4 Steps to prepare your application for a Denial of Service attack

4 Steps to prepare your application for a Denial of Service attack
Jason Gillam
Author: Jason Gillam

When you hear the words "cyber attack," the first thing that comes to mind is probably ransomware or a data breach. However, another type of cyber attack that can be just as devastating is a denial of service attack. In this article, we will discuss application denial of service attacks and how you can prevent your company's flagship application from being taken down by one.

Application denial of service attacks are becoming more and more common, as attackers are realizing how crippling they can be to a company. In a nutshell, an application denial of service attack is when an attacker attempts to make an application unavailable to its users by overloading one or more of the computing resources that the application needs to function.

There are a number of different resources that an attacker can target in an application denial of service attack, including:

  • Processing (CPU)
  • Memory
  • Storage space
  • File handles
  • Database connections
  • Execution threads

Each of these resources has a limit.  Once that limit is reached, the application will start to experience performance issues and may eventually grind to a halt or crash. This can be extremely detrimental to a company if the application is critical to the business. It could mean that customers will be unable to use the application, or employees will be unable to do their jobs. In some cases, an application may even need to be taken offline for hours or days in order to recover from a denial of service attack.

Fortunately, there are a few critical steps that you can take to prevent your application from being taken down by a denial of service attack:

  1. Secure coding practices: By following secure coding practices, your developers can write code that reduces the likelihood of a denial of service condition.  We recommend that software developers become familiar with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). We even teach a class on application security specifically to help strengthen software developers' understanding of security.
  2. Static analysis and code review: Static analysis security testing (SAST) tools can be used to automatically identify potential denial of service vulnerabilities in an application's code. An expert can manually review code for patterns and functions that are prone to problems such as resource exhaustion and race conditions.
  3. Penetration testing: Penetration testing can be used to examine application functionality and behavior to find potential denial of service conditions. It may also be used to simulate a real-world denial of service attack. Secure Ideas has extensive experience in conducting web application penetration testing.
  4. Use a firewall: Firewalls, and especially web application firewalls (WAFs) can block certain types of web traffic from reaching an application. Placing a firewall between the Internet and your application may reduce the risk and impact of a denial of service attack.

By taking these steps, you can help to ensure that your company's flagship application is able to withstand a denial of service attack. However, it is important to remember that no system is ever 100% secure and that there is always a risk that an attacker may find a way to bypass your defenses. As such, it is important to have a plan in place for how you will respond if your application is attacked.

If you think that your company's flagship application might be at risk of being taken down by a denial of service attack, don't hesitate to get in touch with our team of security experts. We can help you assess the risks and take steps to protect your application. Contact us today to learn more!

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