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Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council

3501 Fairfax Drive  Room B7081a  Arlington, VA 22226-3550  (703) 516-5588  FAX (703) 562-6446  http://www.ffiec.gov

Joint Statement
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Cyber-Attacks, Risk Mitigation, and Additional
Resources

PURPOSE
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) members1 (“members”) are
issuing this statement to notify financial institutions of the risks associated with the continued
distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on public websites. The statement also outlines the
steps that institutions are expected to take to address these attacks, and provides resources to help
institutions mitigate the risks posed by such attacks.
BACKGROUND
In the latter half of 2012, an increased number of DDoS attacks were launched against financial
institutions by politically motivated groups. These DDoS attacks continued periodically and
increased in sophistication and intensity. These attacks caused slow website response times,
intermittently prevented customers from accessing institutions’ public websites, and adversely
affected back-office operations. In other cases, DDoS attacks served as a diversionary tactic by
criminals attempting to commit fraud using stolen customer or bank employee credentials to
initiate fraudulent wire or automated clearinghouse transfers.
RISKS
Financial institutions of all sizes that experience DDoS attacks may face a variety of risks,
including operational risks and reputation risks. If the attack is coupled with attempted fraud, a
financial institution may also experience fraud losses as well as liquidity and capital risks.
RISK MITIGATION
The members expect each financial institution to address DDoS readiness as part of ongoing
information security and incident response plans. In accordance with regulatory requirements2,

1

The FFIEC is comprised of the principals of the following: The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of
the Currency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and State Liaison Committee.
2

12 C.F.R. Part 30, Appendix B (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency); 12 C.F.R. Part 208, Appendix D-2,
and Part 225, Appendix F (Federal Reserve); 12 C.F.R. Part 364, Appendix B (Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation); 12 C.F.R. Part 748, Appendix A and B (National Credit Union Administration).

and the FFIEC Information Technology (IT) Handbook on Business Continuity Planning3 and
Information Security4 booklets, the members expect institutions to take the following steps, as
appropriate:
1. Maintain an ongoing program to assess information security risk that identifies,
prioritizes, and assesses the risk to critical systems, including threats to external websites
and online accounts;
2. Monitor Internet traffic to the institution’s website to detect attacks;
3. Activate incident response plans and notify service providers, including Internet service
providers (ISPs), as appropriate, if the institution suspects that a DDoS attack is
occurring. Response plans should include appropriate communication strategies with
customers concerning the safety of their accounts;
4. Ensure sufficient staffing for the duration of the DDoS attack and consider hiring precontracted third-party servicers, as appropriate, that can assist in managing the Internetbased traffic flow. Identify how the institution’s ISP can assist in responding to and
mitigating an attack;
5. Consider sharing information with organizations, such as the Financial Services
Information Sharing and Analysis Center and law enforcement because attacks can
change rapidly and sharing the information can help institutions to identify and mitigate
new threats and tactics; and
6. Evaluate any gaps in the institution’s response following attacks and in its ongoing risk
assessments, and adjust risk management controls accordingly.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
In addition to the FFIEC guidance, several other publications are available to help organizations
mitigate the risks from DDoS attacks. The Department of Homeland Security’s National
Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center published a DDoS Quick Guide on
January 29, 2014. This Quick Guide provides useful information on attack possibilities and
traffic types and should be shared with an institution’s IT department and the institution’s online
banking service provider, if applicable. The Quick Guide is available at www.uscert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/DDoS%20Quick%20Guide.pdf .
Additionally, publications such as National Institute of Standards and Technology Special
Publication 800-61, Computer Security Incident Handling Guide,
(http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-61rev2/SP800-61rev2.pdf), offer specific
instructions for IT staff members to help implement incident response plans. The following are
additional reference materials:


Office of the Comptroller of the Currency - Distributed Denial of Service Attacks and
Customer Account Fraud, December 21, 2012; http://www.occ.gov/newsissuances/alerts/2012/alert-2012-16.html

3

http://ithandbook.ffiec.gov/it-booklets/business-continuity-planning.aspx

4

http://ithandbook.ffiec.gov/it-booklets/information-security.aspx

2




National Credit Union Administration - Mitigating Distributed Denial-of-Service
Attacks, February 2013; http://www.ncua.gov/Resources/Pages/RSK2013-01.aspx
US-CERT - Security Tip, Understanding Denial-of-Service Attacks, November 4, 2009;
http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-015

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