Today, the internet will mark an infamous anniversary in its history and one that has had a significant impact ever since, the anniversary of the Morris Worm. The Morris Worm became the first instance of what we now refer to as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, being released onto the then fairly fledgling internet by Robert Morris Jnr. as an experiment which took a turn for the worse. The attack affected ten percent of the computers connected to the internet, a grand total of about 6,000 machines, and resulted in the first public sentencing for a malware writer in history.

In the intervening 30 years since the Morris Worm attack the size, complexity and role that the internet plays in our lives has increased exponentially. This is particularly true for those in the broadcasting world, as both traditional and non-linear media players look to capitalise on the benefits of reaching viewers on their terms, wherever they want and when they want, with over-the-top (OTT) services.

As the internet has grown larger, so the threat of a DDoS attack has remained ever present. “For digital broadcasters, whose businesses hinge on delivering high-quality video content to millions of customers via the internet, DDoS attacks represent a major threat to reputation and revenue” argues Steve Miller-Jones, VP of product strategy, Limelight Networks.

“With their global scale and rapidly growing user bases, OTT service providers are becoming increasingly aware of the burgeoning threat of DDoS attacks. This impact of said threat was brought into sharp focus when the Mirai botnet attack brought down Dyn, disrupting major online platforms such as Spotify and Netflix.

“The stakes are being raised even higher as more and more viewers move to viewing online and broadcasters place greater importance on driving demand for online viewing services. This is creating the phenomenon of digital online TV peak events, when a highly anticipated show is released resulting in a spike in traffic during a specific timeframe. The Netflix show Making a Murderer is a great example. The first series became an, almost, overnight cult success, growing from 565,000 viewers to 19.3 million within 35 days according to Symphony Advanced Media. With the second season recently released, its highly likely that the demand for the programme will be equally as incredible, putting significant strain on Netflix’s servers. These events offer huge rewards, but they also pose major security risks. At times of highly publicised and widely recognised high-demand attackers can time their activity to cause maximum damage.

“With brand reputation on the line, it’s crucial that those behind digital services consider how they’re combatting this threat. Having the correct Content Delivery Network (CDN) strategy is critical. Through the use of a cloud-based CDN, broadcasters can ensure that they have sufficient capacity to fight the largest of attacks. As well as providing high storage capacity, digital services should ensure that their CDN offers proactive detection to avoid downtime. Behaviour-based techniques can trap application attacks that are subtler and can’t be spotted simply by measuring traffic levels. Additionally, having real-time visibility of the size and mitigation of any attacks is an absolute necessity so that you’re not firefighting in the dark during an attack. Finally, and most importantly, any DDoS solution must come at no cost to overall performance. Performance delays caused by always-on scrubbing solutions add up, translating into poorer performance for users. As such, a high-performing CDN must satisfy the always-on requirement without any operating performance penalties.”