Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks present a significant threat to organizations as they grow in sophistication and frequency. According to several studies and reports, the average successful DDoS attack in 2022 lasted for over 50 hours, compared to 2021, where the average was 30 minutes. 

The financial services industry, in particular, has become a prominent target for DDoS threat actors, as these organizations hold a larger market share, and their users rely heavily on 24/7 access to the critical services they provide. As institutions shift their services online and become more digitally accessible through services like mobile banking, the DDoS attack surface expands, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to a potential attack.

The recent attack on the Danish Bank and Bankdata is a prime example. It illustrates what can happen when organizations need more insight and awareness of their vulnerabilities and evolving DDoS attack surface. 

An expanding DDoS surface

Most leaders are well aware of their attack surface when defending against cyber threats like malware and ransomware, but are often blind to the limitations of their DDoS solutions. Current DDoS mitigation strategies such as red team testing help organizations prepare for an emergency response scenario, training on attacks that have already succeeded. The problem with this approach is that it needs to provide visibility into where an organization is vulnerable.

The DDoS vulnerability gap within most organizations is extensive, with thousands of entry points a bad actor can exploit. IT leaders and security teams are often unaware of these vulnerabilities and how to respond to a DDoS attack until they're operating in an emergency response scenario — and by then, it may be too late, because while the IT leaders of an organization may not know where the vulnerabilities lie, the DDoS threat actors often do.

Without adequate visibility into its attack surface, it may only take one attack for an entire organization to go down, resulting in lasting brand damage and loss of revenue. The Danish Bank and Bankdata had only one day of total downtime, yet tens of thousands of customers could not access critical online services or make necessary transactions. 

What occurred in Denmark may be a prelude to something much more extensive for the financial services industry. Unless the necessary mitigation strategies are implemented, these organizations and their customers are at a high risk of being targeted and will continue to be knocked offline. 

Deploy, validate, remediate 

To defend against these attacks, IT leaders must harden defenses to get ahead of DDoS attackers. DDoS mitigation strategies have become a crucial cost of business, but overall preparedness will ultimately depend on the organization. IT leaders must ask themselves if they have the necessary technology and truly understand their organization's pain points.  

 As a first step to a comprehensive defense, organizations should implement DDoS mitigation solutions. These solutions provide foundational protection against attacks and are a significant first step to shoring up the attack surface. However, they often fall short when accounting for potential vulnerabilities. To truly stay protected, organizations need solutions that provide visibility and confidence that the tens of thousands of potential entry points to their networks are not leaving them open to an attack. 

Organizations can only remediate vulnerabilities and build DDoS resilience by understanding where they're vulnerable. Financial service institutions need to be proactive and have a trusted partner that can continuously validate every attack vector and close the entry points across the attack surface before a DDoS attack, without disrupting service. 

Without these proper strategies, the financial services industry will continue to be hit with devastating attacks, leaving the organization and its valued customers in the dark.