Port Of London Authority (PLA) Encounters DDoS Attack, Shutting Down Website

The Port of London Authority was knocked offline by a severe distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, on 24th May 2022, as reported by Check Point Research. The public trust entity, responsible for monitoring the Thames Tideway’s ups and downs and overseeing 2,000,000 commercial and leisure vessels, faced disruptions in operations and online infrastructure. 

DDoS attack

Though the Port of London has successfully restored its website, the grim reality cannot be ignored. It accentuates the fact that ensuring cyber defense and proactive response to security incidents is enterprise-critical. 

How are DDoS attacks initiated? 

Expired SSL certificates and compromised machine identities help cybercriminals launch DDoS attacks. SSL certificates are a kind of X.509 certificates, which validate the legitimacy of the server-side endpoint in communication between a browser and server. In compliance with the X.509 standard, the SSL certificate contains the public key of the owner, serial number, validity period, and the digital signature using the private key of the issuing certificate authority (CA). When the SSL certificate of the website expires, the security plummets automatically, enabling easy access to the hackers. 

Underpowered servers, outdated software, and unpatched systems enable hackers to target websites for DDoS attacks and compromise network infrastructure. Hackers can also shut down websites without entering the servers, by exploiting the loopholes in the content delivery network (CDN). In addition, multiple security appliances, which are incompatible with each other, can be an easy target for malicious actors. In the occurrence of such attacks, it becomes challenging to identify the real threat and take the affected systems down. 

What are the impacts of DDoS attacks? 

Any public service like web pages, email services, mobile application APIs, etc. can fill victims to severe DDoS attacks. During the attack, the targeted service becomes completely unavailable and inaccessible, as in the case of the Port of London Authority, where the website was shut down forcibly. Hackers often use remotely-controlled botnets to generate malicious traffic, which can be any device, like computers, mobile phones, or networked devices. The negative impacts of DDoS attacks include long hours of downtime, which can lead to loss of market share, revenue, and productivity and scarred brand reputation, and most importantly data breach and theft. 

Discover unknown certificates and keys across heterogeneous environments

A DDoS attack can be short or long-spanned, but you must not underestimate the damages that short-spanned attacks can incur, especially if they are recurrent. To shield against small or large DDoS attacks, implementing fast detection and mitigation strategies is crucial. 

Build cyber defense against DDoS attack 

Expired certificates and domain names can be gateways to your networks and hackers look for such weak links to exploit. Failing to revoke the certificate related to your expired domain, and linking the same certificate to your new domain, can be a mistake. The hacker can lay his hands on the expired domain and revoke the certificate, making your new website dysfunctional, and initiating a DDoS attack. 

Set up role-based access control: Role-based access control (RBAC) helps tighten the overall security posture of an organization. It ensures selective access to corporate data and resources, based on the requirements of each organizational role. Organizations can review and modify permissions from time to time associated with each role, thus enabling only authorized users to access the specific resources. 

Improve network security: Implement Intrusion detection systems and firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-malware software, using web security tools for identifying anomalous traffic and blocking web threats. Securing network endpoints (like computers and mobile phones), which can be the doorways to allow malicious activities, can help you improve network security. It is also crucial to solidify the network infrastructure security for preparing your hardware (routers and load balancers) in the event of overburdened network traffic. 

Embrace network automation: With advanced network policy management and automation solutions, detection and prevention of DDoS attacks is fully automated and can be leveraged during such scenarios. As soon as an attack is detected, the network automation solution helps you respond proactively and mitigate attacks instantly. The customizable self-service and form-based approach let you automate the network change management process, thus reducing the implementation time from hours to minutes. 

Enforce strict monitoring: Continuous monitoring (CM) for traffic analysis in real-time helps to detect the early signs of DDoS attempts before the attack occurs in full swing. Security teams can analyze the network activities and the typical patterns of the traffic requests, thus identifying the early signs of the attacks. 

Implement automated certificate lifecycle management (CLM): Implementing a robust automated CLM solution will help you stay proactive and prevent breaches or attacks. Automation plays a crucial role in building digital trust and prevents the compromise of digital identities. 

Gaining holistic visibility into the certificate infrastructure, managing a centralized inventory, enabling periodic scans, and enforcing ownership hierarchies will ensure efficient certificate management. You can also discover undocumented and rogue certificates, which could go undetected in the event of expiry and compromise. 

Talk to an expert today to know how AppViewX CERT+ provides end-to-end automation of the entire certificate lifecycle stages: certificate request, issuance, provisioning, scanning, renewal, and revocation. 

Tags

  • Certificate authority
  • certificate lifecycle management
  • Certificate Management
  • DDoS attacks
  • Role-based access control
  • SSL Certificate Management

About the Author

Debarati Biswas

Senior Specialist- Product Marketing

A content creator and a lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity. She pens insightful resources to address the pain points of the readers and prospective buyers and help them make well-informed decisions.

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