How can independent media and human rights sites defend themselves from DDoS attacks?

Thanks to the attacks executed by hacktivist group Anonymous against sites of companies that have (in their eyes) wronged WikiLeaks, the DDoS attack has once again become a well-known method of temporarily silencing one’s opposition and crippling its agenda or preventing it to reach its economic goals.

And it’s not just a method reserved for loosely formed groups of like-minded individuals who share a common goal, but has also been very effectively used (always allegedly, since it’s difficult to prove conclusively) by a number of governments and government-sanctioned hackers to target independent media and human rights sites such as Survival International and many others.

In order to shed more light on this attack technique and to help those organizations to fight it off as best they can, a number of researchers from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University have published a paper on the topic.

Their extensive research has led them to conclude that:

  • DDoS attacks against independent media and human rights sites have been common in the past year, even outside of elections, protests, and military operations
  • These sites are not only targeted with DDoS attacks, but also with intrusion, defacement and filtering attacks
  • DDoS attacks against these sites are sometimes application- and sometimes network-based. The former can be deflected or mitigated by a competent system administrator, while the latter require assistance from the hosting provider.
  • Independent media and human rights organizations should chose major ISPs to host their sites, because those hosting providers will be more capable of defending the site, especially when the attack is network-based and gobbles up bandwidth.

More helpful advice offered includes the replacement of intricate content management systems with static HTML or using aggressive caching systems, considering hosting the site on highly DDoS resistant hosting services like Blogger, using attack-detecting systems and have backup hosting ready, and more.

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