IP address abuse: what is it and how can companies protect themselves?

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Cyberattacks can take different forms, but all incur serious reputational and financial costs for businesses around the world. If not addressed in time, attacks can lead to loss of IP reputation and blacklisting, causing serious and costly damage to businesses. However, timely precautionary measures can help organizations keep threats at bay.

What is IP address abuse?

IP address abuse occurs whenever a network, website, or internet-related device is attacked by one or more IP addresses. Although these forms of abuse, including phishing, spam, DDoS attacks, malware and hacking, to name a few, can use a variety of methods and serve different purposes, they do target all companies via IP addresses and servers used to perform day-to-day operations.

For example, ANZ, an Australian multinational banking and financial services company, suffered a DDoS attack in September, leaving customers without access to their bank accounts. In a DDoS attack, hackers flood a website with a few thousand bots, all trying to connect to the target’s IP address simultaneously, overloading its infrastructure and rendering it unusable. To put it in simple terms, a DDoS attack is like an unexpected traffic jam that clogs a roadway and prevents ordinary traffic from reaching its destination.

The Importance of Maintaining Intellectual Property Reputation

Assume that an IP address has never been associated with malicious activity, such as being hacked by a third party or having malware passed through it. In this case, the reputation of this address is considered good and trustworthy. On the other hand, if an IP address has been linked to suspicious activity, it could be flagged as a risk to other users and therefore not considered legitimate.

IP reputation can be determined by several variables, including age, domain reputation, presence of downloadable files, hosting location, associations with malicious activity, presence on blocklists, and more. Taking these factors into account, a certain “history” of this IP address can be recorded, with a certain trust value assigned to it. This “score” is then used to determine how much functionality this IP asset can possess without harming others.

To better illustrate this, we can use restaurant ratings as an example. If a business has a history of poor customer service, poor products, poor hygiene, or any other combination of factors, it will score lower than restaurants that have not faced the same issues. As a result, poorly rated establishments are less likely to be recommended, advertised, and are at a higher risk of repercussions due to non-compliance with prescriptive guidelines. The IP address reputation system works in a similar way.

Understand the importance of managing IP address abuse

Maintaining a good IP address reputation allows businesses to send and receive information through their networks without the restrictions faced by IP addresses flagged for suspicious activity.

To give an example of the difficulties that a suspicious address can face, imagine that the success of your business depends on email campaigns. By getting blacklisted due to an unreliable reputation, you might have serious difficulty running such campaigns, as your emails would bounce and not reach their intended recipients.

Failure to address instances of intellectual property abuse within your business can have a complex effect on your ability to use your IP resources, as the more risky your IP address history is considered, the more likely it is that they end up on harsh blocking lists (such as ‘Don’t Route or Peer’ or ‘UCE Protect Level 3), which could end up blocking your business entirely and leading to financial and reputational costs.

Preventive measures to consider

While the potential repercussions are severe, businesses can position themselves to be one step ahead of the problem to limit vulnerabilities in network infrastructure and IP resources.

First, response time to reports of abuse is crucial. The more time that elapses between recording an attack and actually taking action to fix those vulnerabilities, the more likely the IP address is to be restricted by blocklists. Keeping track of how your IP resources might be misused is often overlooked, and since it’s usually difficult to do, companies may consider turning this responsibility over to professionals. The ability to outsource their abuse prevention needs to another party helps divert attention to other projects. and scale their business faster.

Abuse of IP space can also occur whenever a server is hacked. To anticipate such events, companies can use Secure Socket Shell (SSH) keys to enhance security. In the SSH protocol, the private key, used to connect to servers, never leaves the device used to access the network, unlike regular passwords, which are not as strongly encrypted. Also, opt for complicated and irregular passwords of around 16 digits to reduce the risk of hacking. While this does not prevent the onboarding of a risky customer, it does help strengthen the overall integrity of the network.

IP abuse, if left unchecked, could become a real threat to businesses by disrupting the regular flow of information through the network infrastructure. Although this can have serious consequences (the reputation of the intellectual property could be compromised, which could lead to blacklisting), companies can protect themselves from harm by taking concrete measures to secure their IP resources or by allowing professionals to do it for them.

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