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Is IP geolocation database blocking the answer to preventing cyber attacks?

IP geolocation database blocking is one of the most effective ways to keep malicious traffic out of your business’ online platforms. Malicious actors are frequent and widespread, and the threat they represent cannot simply be overlooked. It’s become apparent that protecting your company from cyber-attacks and data breaches should be one of the top priorities of business owners today.

The recent attacks on tech giants such as LinkedIn and Dropbox have shown that even the largest firms aren’t immune to these threats. In fact, it isn’t just online businesses that have succumbed to cyber attacks. Major ISPs, along with the millions of users that use their service are just as vulnerable. Even financial institutions aren’t safe, with many banks being compromised by way of fraudulent transactions and spoofing.

The nature of cyber-attacks and what to look out for

Networks, people and businesses around the world depend on the internet to remain interconnected and exchange information. Unfortunately, this also opens up channels for certain users to send out spam, commit data breaches and a variety of other cyber attacks. As such, cyber-attacks are conducted on the basis of manipulating legitimate means of transmitting and receiving information to conduct unauthorised, malicious actions.

Denial-of-service attacks are one of the most common threats businesses will encounter online. As the name suggests, this form of attack simply denies potential users a service - be it a server, system or network. This is achieved through flooding the target service with traffic up until it reaches maximum capacity; exhausting its resources and rendering it unable to fulfil legitimate requests. Distributed denial of service - or DDoS for short - takes this a step further and utilises multiple compromised devices. Through this, an important business website can be taken down for a considerable amount of time.

What’s concerning about DDoS attacks is that their intent is not always easy to discern. Competitors could be looking to disrupt an organisation’s digital presence during an important phase of a campaign, or it could be a group of hacktivists shutting down services as a form of protest.

Perhaps even more troubling is that conducting a cyber attack like this is easier than ever due to the popularity of cybercrime-as-a-service. This allows individuals to direct an attack on a business’ online platforms even without any real technical expertise of their own.

How does IP geolocation database blocking work?

IP geolocation database blocking limits website access to a certain restricted geographical region. It identifies where the user is accessing the internet from - by way of IP address - then cross-checks it against either a whitelist or blacklist of locations determined by the site’s owner.

IP address-based geolocation is quite accurate (up to 99% on the country level) in determining the user’s location, and has the added bonus of not requiring user consent. Blocking is also near-instant, being able to halt suspicious traffic in a matter of milliseconds.

How can IP geolocation database blocking prevent cyber attacks?

Certain regions are a hotbed for bad actors and malicious traffic. China, for example, is notorious for being one of the major sources of DDoS attacks, while regions like Russia and the Netherlands have a significant botnet presence.

Now, when it comes to malicious traffic, an organisation’s response should be pretty straightforward - they need to eliminate it. Therefore, one might be inclined to suggest that high-risk regions should be completely blocked off. This is easily achieved with IP geolocation database blocking and can be perfect for businesses that operate within a narrow geographical range. Furthermore, it can act as a form of ‘aggressive blocking’, allowing businesses to proactively block responsible regions during a sudden attack.

But what about businesses that operate globally?

Restricting access to a website for certain countries can stifle business relationships and growth. Websites (especially content-dependent ones) could also miss out on legitimate users and engagement. Integrating a smart API that utilises an IP database to geo-block onto your website might just be the answer. This identifies potentially malicious traffic by user, thereby allowing businesses to block out only that specific IP address instead of an entire region.

Can cyber attacks get past IP geolocation database blocking?

For all its benefits, IP geolocation database blocking is by no means foolproof. For instance, users will be able to get around the block using a VPN service to switch their IP addresses if it’s been blacklisted. Visitors would also be able to get past these blocks by disabling JavaScript in their browser, as this essentially curtails a geolocation services’ ability to determine user location.

Still, despite these workarounds, IP geolocation database blocking is still the best solution businesses have in their arsenal to prevent cyber attacks. There’s plenty of geolocation services to choose from, and installing them onto your website is a relatively simple process. All in all, it’s a simple and effective answer to a very real, ever-present threat. With time, as geolocation databases keep getting smarter, cyber-attacks are likely to be less and less frequent.

“Simple yet powerful geo redirects”

Dante A.
DIRECTOR OF WEB DEVELOPMENT
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