How Does HTTP Flood Attack Work ? Methodology and Best Pratices to Prevent it

Http is an application layer protocol used access web content from and push web content to a web server which is stateless in nature. Http flood attack is the type of Distributed denial of service that designed to overload the web server with HTTP requests from zombie hosts and interrupts service from access legitimate user requests.

Due to the nature of the HTTP protocol, it is very difficult to distinguish the zombie’s requests and user’s requests from web server point of view. Generally, each zombie sends small numbers of packets and thus look like a legitimate user. Http flood attack can be categorized as HTTP-get method attack and HTTP-post method attack. Http-get method is used to fetch the webpage contents from a web server and HTTP-post method is used to push the content to the web server.

Further HTTP flood DDoS attack can be categorized into two based on their topology structure. they are centralized and distributed botnet. A centralized botnet is the most commonly used topology structure. (E. Alomari, S. Manickam, B. B. Gupta, P. Singh, and M. Anbar, 2014)

1. Methodology

Centralized Structure of an HTTP based DDOS attack

HTTP flood attack process is involving attacker keeps a command and control server, mostly he/she may have physical access or cloud-based server. C&C server maintains communications with bots also known as zombies and C&C server changes it’s IP address over a specific time to stay secure. Attacker instructs bots to send HTTP-get or HTTP-post request to the target DDoS victim through the C&C server.

Another challenging part is spreading bot malware to the vulnerable hosts on the internet. This can be done in various ways such as downloading nulled software, clicking untrusted links in the email, finding the hosts that have a default password for Telnet or SSH etc. once the bot malware installed on normal user’s pc or host, it will become a part of a private bot network. Normal users cannot be able to identify easily because it will not generate high noise. Black energy, Zemra, and Mirai are some examples of bot malware. (E. Alomari, S. Manickam, B. B. Gupta, P. Singh, and M. Anbar, 2014)

2. Real word hits

  • According to (BBC News, 2017) Ukraine’s national postal service’s website and online parcel tracking system has been hit by DDOS attack hackers and it long lasted for more than 13 hours. Website and online parcel tracking system went offline.
  • According to (Whittaker, 2016) BBC’s website root domain including on-demand and radio, the player suffered from an outage for 3 hours. Firstly, it was considered a technical issue but later identified as distributed denial of service attack.

3. Impacts

  • Revenue loss may happen.
  • Productivity loss, product work may be halt due to server system shutdown.
  • If the service is not available when needed, then the organization’s reputation may damage.
  • It may damage the server hardware.
  • It may cause customer loss.

4. Best practices.

  • Host the website in multiple data centers across different countries.
  • Implement content delivery network for the website, so the HTTP request will be directed to CDN servers first.
  • Tune the server keep alive off
  • Apply apache custom modules such as mod_antiloris and mod_limitipconn
  • Implement and configure web application firewall properly.
  • Implement network monitoring solutions (Indusface , 2017)
  • Create a null route in the router and redirect the traffic if any anomaly detected.
  • Block known suspicious IP address range
  • Implement next-generation firewall and configure botnet filtering.
  • Implement IPS
  • Subaharan

    Subaharan Nithiyananthan, a graduate of Staffordshire University, UK, Followed BEng (Hons) in Computer Networks and Security. He is the founder of MobilePcBlog and information security enthusiast also Publishing articles for MobilePcBlog. He has a couple of professional IT certifications such as CCNA, CEH, and NSE2, AZ500. Currently, Working as an Engineer - Network & Security for Connex Information Technologies.

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