Assessing and Mitigating DDoS Attack Risks for Enterprises

July 3, 2024

Assessing and Mitigating DDoS Attack Risks for Enterprises

Are You at Risk of DDoS Attacks? Understanding and Quantifying Your Risk

Executive Summary

DDoS attacks target the availability aspect of the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability), making it essential for enterprises to prioritize their assets based on the potential business impact of downtime. By understanding your attack surface and employing widely accepted methodologies to score potential business impacts, you can better protect your organization. Additionally, mapping and testing defense controls, assessing third-party risks, and ensuring comprehensive observability are critical components of a resilient cybersecurity strategy.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks remain a formidable threat. These attacks can severely disrupt business operations, leading to financial losses and reputational damage. For large enterprises, understanding and quantifying the risk of DDoS attacks is crucial to safeguarding critical assets and ensuring business continuity. This blog delves into the importance of comprehending your attack surface, prioritizing assets based on business impact, and implementing robust defense controls.

A Methodological Approach to Understanding your Risk

Understanding Your Attack Surface

The attack surface encompasses all the points where an unauthorized user can attempt to enter or extract data from an environment. For DDoS attacks, this includes websites, applications, network infrastructure, and any internet-facing services. Understanding your attack surface involves:

  • Asset Inventory: Catalog all assets that are exposed to the internet.
  • Business Impact Analysis: Determine the criticality of each asset based on its role in business operations.
  • Defense Assessment: Identify controls that are in place to detect and defend against DDoS attacks for the critical assets.

Prioritizing and Scoring Assets Based on Business Impact

Not all assets have the same level of importance. Prioritizing assets involves assessing the potential business impact of their downtime. This can be achieved through:

  • Business Impact Scoring: Assign scores to assets based on criteria such as revenue generation, customer impact, and operational significance.
  • Formula for Impact Scoring: A widely accepted formula is
    Impact Score = (Revenue Impact + Customer Impact + Operational Impact + Reputational Impact) x Likelihood of Attack

Examples of Impact Scoring

  1. Revenue Impact:
    • High Impact: E-commerce platforms, online banking services, subscription-based services.
    • Medium Impact: Marketing websites, customer portals.
    • Low Impact: Internal documentation sites, development servers.
  2. Customer Impact:
    • High Impact: Customer support systems, service delivery platforms.
    • Medium Impact: Customer feedback portals, forums.
    • Low Impact: Informational blogs, newsletters.
  3. Operational Impact:
    • High Impact: Core databases, authentication services, DNS servers.
    • Medium Impact: Load balancers, internal communication tools.
    • Low Impact: Backup servers, staging environments.
  4. Reputational Impact:
    • High Impact: Online banking services, e-commerce platforms during peak periods, healthcare provider appointment systems.
    • Medium Impact: Streaming services, public sector government portals.
    • Low Impact: Internal documentation sites, internal communication tools.

Identifying Shared Infrastructure & Third Party Risk

Shared infrastructure, such as servers, load balancers, and firewalls, plays a critical role in maintaining the availability and performance of multiple applications and services. These components should be prioritized based on their overall impact on the business.

  • Critical Servers: Prioritize servers that host multiple critical applications or databases.
  • Load Balancers: Assess the importance of load balancers that manage traffic for high-traffic websites or services.
  • Firewalls: Ensure firewalls protecting sensitive data and critical applications are robust and regularly tested.
  • ISP’s and Hosting Providers: Your hosting provider’s upstream ISP links could be attacked and your services would be collateral damage.

Don’t overlook the third-party services your organization depends on. Evaluate these services based on their impact on your business operations and ensure they are included in your risk assessments.

  • Third-Party Service Assessment: Regularly evaluate the DDoS protection capabilities of third-party providers.
  • Contractual Security Obligations: Include provisions for security assessments and DDoS protection in contracts with third-party vendors.

Assessing and Managing Third-Party Risks

Third-party services can introduce additional risks to your organization. It’s crucial to evaluate and manage these risks effectively. RedWolf can help navigate the complexities of identifying and testing third parties, ensuring your defenses are robust. Here’s how:

  • Third-Party Risk Assessment: Evaluate the DDoS protection capabilities of your third-party service providers. RedWolf’s trusted DDoS testing methodology can facilitate the authorization process, ensuring all necessary permissions are obtained for safe and compliant testing.
  • Contractual Obligations: Ensure that contracts with third parties include provisions for regular security assessments and testing.
  • Transfer Risk: Understand and mitigate the risk of third-party dependencies affecting your operations. RedWolf employs a ‘white box’ testing methodology to ensure all components work together seamlessly. This approach allows for transparent and thorough testing, aiming to optimize the configuration of third-party vendor controls.

Understand Your Adversaries & Estimating the Likelihood of Attack

In the realm of cybersecurity, understanding your adversaries is crucial for assessing your risk of DDoS attacks and implementing effective defense strategies. Different industries face varied threat actors, each with unique motivations and methods. By comprehensively understanding these adversaries, organizations can better quantify their risk and make informed decisions about investing in DDoS defense controls.

Types of Threat Actors

  1. Competitors:
    • Industries Affected: E-commerce, technology, finance.
    • Motivation: Disrupting business operations to gain a competitive edge.
    • Risk to Business: Loss of revenue, damage to reputation, decreased customer trust.
    • Likelihood of Attack: Moderate to High, especially in highly competitive markets or during critical business periods.
  2. State Actors:
    • Industries Affected: Government, critical infrastructure, defense, healthcare.
    • Motivation: Espionage, sabotage, political influence.
    • Risk to Business: National security threats, massive service disruptions, severe reputational damage.
    • Likelihood of Attack: Low to Moderate, depending on geopolitical tensions and the organization’s strategic importance.
  3. Disgruntled Employees:
    • Industries Affected: Any industry.
    • Motivation: Retaliation for perceived injustices, financial gain.
    • Risk to Business: Data breaches, financial loss, internal disruptions.
    • Likelihood of Attack: Moderate to High, particularly if there are recent layoffs or internal conflicts.
  4. Cybercriminals:
    • Industries Affected: Finance, e-commerce, healthcare, technology.
    • Motivation: Financial gain through extortion or data theft.
    • Risk to Business: Ransom demands, theft of sensitive information, operational downtime.
    • Likelihood of Attack: High, given the financial incentives and relatively low barriers to launching attacks.
  5. Hacktivists:
    • Industries Affected: Government, finance, corporations with controversial practices.
    • Motivation: Promoting political or social agendas.
    • Risk to Business: Public embarrassment, service disruptions, brand damage.
    • Likelihood of Attack: Low to Moderate, depending on the organization’s visibility and actions related to social or political issues.

Historical and Industry-Specific Insights

Organizations should draw from their history, as well as industry-specific trends, to anticipate potential threats. For instance:

  • Finance: Commonly targeted by cybercriminals for financial gain and by competitors for market advantage.
  • Healthcare: Targeted by state actors and cybercriminals for sensitive patient data.
  • E-commerce: Frequently attacked by competitors and cybercriminals to disrupt services and steal customer information.

Estimating the Likelihood of Attack

To estimate the likelihood of an attack, organizations can:

  • Review Historical Data: Analyze past incidents and attack patterns in their industry.
  • Monitor Threat Intelligence: Use threat intelligence services to stay informed about emerging threats and adversaries.
  • Assess Vulnerabilities: Regularly evaluate their own security posture to identify weaknesses that could attract attackers.
  • Consult Industry Reports: Refer to industry reports and studies that highlight common threats and attack frequencies.


Understanding and quantifying your risk of DDoS attacks is a critical step in safeguarding your enterprise’s digital assets. By prioritizing assets based on business impact, implementing robust defense controls, assessing third-party risks, and ensuring comprehensive observability, you can significantly enhance your organization’s resilience against DDoS threats.

For more information on how to assess and mitigate the risk of DDoS attacks, contact us to provide tailored solutions to meet your enterprise’s needs.

Meet RedWolf at RSA Conference 2019

Sharjil Khan, Principal Consultant at Redwolf Security Inc will be giving a presentation ‘How to Design and Operate a DDOS Testing Program’ on March 6th between 1:30pm and 4:30pm.

Click here to learn more