Website Taken Down by Application Layer Distributed Denial-of-Service
A major insurer with over 20 million members relies on its website to deliver information on providers, benefits, and plans. Because the services offered by the insurer are complex and highly personalized, search is a popular and essential website component.
Recently, an attacker flooded the search function with queries for multiple days. The resulting application layer distributed denial-of-service (app layer DDoS) caused the search function to fail and prevented members from using it. Other sections of the website also failed since web server resources are shared across website elements.
Cybercriminals often use DDoS attacks to extort targets or to mask other concurrent attacks. In this case, the attacker did not contact the company. However, Shape researchers observed low-level automated scraping activities occurring at the same time as the DDoS attack, indicating the DDoS attack may have been a diversionary tactic.
- Existing network DDoS defenses are ineffective against automated adversaries masquerading as human visitors
- Application layer DDoS attack is one of many types of automated attacks.
- New defensive approaches, focused on deflecting automation, reliably stop these website attacks.
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