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What is Denial of Service (DoS)?

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are a significant threat that can severely impact the availability and performance of critical authentication and authorization services. These attacks are designed to disrupt IAM systems by overwhelming them with an excessive number of requests or by exploiting vulnerabilities, thereby preventing legitimate users from accessing essential resources and services. In IAM, the implications of a DoS attack are profound, as they can lead to widespread service disruptions, unauthorised access and compromised security operations.

IAM systems, particularly those handling authentication, authorization and credential management, are prime targets for DoS attacks. When these systems are targeted, the impact can range from users being unable to log into their accounts to administrators losing control over access management functions. For example, a DoS attack on an authentication service might flood the login portal with a deluge of requests, making it slow or completely unresponsive. Similarly, targeting authorization systems can prevent users from obtaining necessary permissions, thereby disrupting access to applications and data, which can have cascading effects on business operations and security compliance.

Attackers employ various techniques to execute DoS attacks. Volume-based attacks involve sending a high number of authentication requests in a short period, which can exhaust the system's resources and lead to downtime. Credential stuffing, where automated scripts attempt numerous username and password combinations, not only creates a DoS scenario but also poses a risk of unauthorised access if valid credentials are discovered. Application layer attacks exploit specific weaknesses in IAM applications, potentially causing failures that disrupt service. Additionally, protocol-based attacks, such as SYN floods, target the underlying protocols used by IAM systems to initiate and manage connections, thereby consuming resources and impairing functionality.



How IAM systems prevent DoS attacks

Mitigating DoS attacks in IAM involves a multi-faceted approach. Rate limiting is a common strategy, where thresholds are set to limit the number of login attempts or API requests from a single source. This helps prevent brute force attacks and reduces the likelihood of resource exhaustion. Anomaly detection systems play a crucial role in identifying unusual patterns of access requests that might indicate a DoS attack. By analysing behaviours that deviate from normal usage, these systems can trigger alerts or automatically block suspicious activities. Ensuring that IAM systems are scalable and have redundancy built-in is also essential; load balancing and failover mechanisms can distribute the load and maintain service availability even under attack. Regular patch management and secure configuration practices further enhance the resilience of IAM systems against potential exploits.

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