DDoS attack mitigation for Canadian Bayraktar crowdfunding initiative

Published #2022-08-01


To endure in a heroic battle defending the civilized world from russian aggression, Ukraine urgently and absolutely needs more equipment to protect the sky. One of the most popular and efficient unmanned aerial vehicles is Turkish medium-altitude long-endurance Baykar Bayraktar TBx UAV.

Aware of the global scale of russian threat, our friends in Lithuania, Ukraine, and Poland have raised millions of dollars across the globe through grassroots fundraisers to ensure and conduct purchases of the famous Bayraktar drone.

UHelpUkraine is a registered non-profit organization (REG. #1000182616, Canada) of proud Ukrainian-Canadian volunteers. An initiative #BuyaBayraktar was started by UHelpUkraine on Jul 20, 2022 and attracted a lot of attention, both anticipated and unwanted one.

Attack signature detection and response

Rework-Space team was involved in the project since Jul 23, 2022 to resolve issues with suspicious traffic activity that caused poor performance of uhelpukraine.org site.

First, we have done some hosting audits and research which enabled us to configure AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF). As a result, we have protected the web application uhelpukraine.org from common web exploits and also researched the traffic in detail. In less than 2 days, 140 000 000 illegitimate requests were blocked.

Image 1. WAF requests visualization

Figure 1. WAF requests visualization

CPU utilization improved considerably.

Figure 2. EC2 instance CPU utilization

However, we discovered that there were short time intervals when WAF rules were not efficient and CPU utilization was still high (Figure 2). Generally, AWS proposes two kinds of response to DDoS attacks (the 7-layer OSI Model), namely:

  1. Provide your own mitigations;

  2. Contact support – If you're a Shield Advanced customer.

Option 1 is not acceptable in this case of more than 60M blocked requests with geographically distributed origins. The daily budget of our customer was about $50, and you pay for each 1M of blocked requests. Option 2 is good but starts from $3000 for a monthly subscription. Obviously, it would not be the best solution for our customer, a non-profit organization with a very limited budget.

So, we have conducted research on projects and companies that support open society initiatives and help people feel safe when using information technologies. As a result, we have chosen Jigsaw, which is a unit within Google that explores threats to open information systems and creates technology that enables scalable solutions.

You can see the result in Figure 2, presenting the new solution implemented on Jul 25, 2022. Noteworthy, for non-profit organizations and other eligible clients Jigsaw proposes CDN cache (Google infrastructure), reCAPTCHA (should be enabled explicitly), metrics in a single dashboard at no cost at all, as a basic option.

Image 3. cost dynamics for uhelpukraine.org

Figure 3. Cost dynamics for uhelpukraine.org

In conclusion, we got rid of expenses on the AWS side. Now UHelpUkraine team pays just for AWS hosting services and focuses on volunteer activities. Rework-Space team continues to provide cyber-security services to our new partner UHelpUkraine and will do so till our people prevails.

All materials are published with the consent of UHelpUkraine team.