SOC Insider Reveals: Why We Dumped Rate Limits for Next-Gen Security!


In the fast-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, staying ahead of threats is paramount. As a Radware product manager who specializes in DDoS attacks, I have witnessed a groundbreaking shift within our Security Operations Center (SOC).

This blog unveils the journey of abandoning traditional rate limits in favor of next-gen security measures. Join me as I shed light on the motivations, challenges, and the strategy we have embraced.

What is Rate Limiting?

Rate limiting is a cybersecurity mechanism employed to control and manage traffic flow to a network or web application, particularly in the face of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

This mechanism restricts traffic that exceeded a certain threshold and can be implemented through various metrics such as:

  • Connections Per Second (CPS)
  • Packets Per Second (PPS)
  • Bandwidth (Gbps)

Administrators set predefined thresholds for the above metrics, allowing them to proactively prevent network congestion, safeguard against sudden spikes in traffic, and efficiently manage incoming traffic.

The Pitfalls of Rate Limiting

In this section, we delve into the specific pitfalls that led our SOC to reevaluate its reliance on rate limiting.

Ineffectiveness Against Complex Attacks

DDoS attack methodologies have evolved into complex, multi-vector, dynamic and adaptive strategies, rendering traditional rate limits less effective. Attackers now employ techniques that manipulate traffic patterns, mimic legitimate traffic, making it challenging for rate limits to keep pace. The reactive nature of rate limiting, relying on predefined thresholds, often falls short in identifying and mitigating these dynamic attacks in real-time.

Example Scenario:

Imagine a scenario where a DDoS attack launches a low-and-slow attack, carefully avoiding rate limits by gradually increasing the attack intensity. Traditional rate limits struggle to detect such subtle variations, leaving security teams blind to the impending threat until it reaches a critical point.

Impact on Legitimate Traffic

Rate limiting operates on predefined thresholds, reacting to the volume of incoming traffic. This reactive approach puts security teams in a perpetual game of catch-up. By the time rate limits identify and respond to an ongoing attack, considerable damage may have already occurred, leading to potential service disruptions, and compromised user experiences.

Real-world Impact:

Turning Away Website Visitors:
Rate limiting, in managing traffic, may accidentally limit potential website visitors. Beyond a specific traffic threshold, new connections get blocked. During flash crowds, like the surge in online shoppers on Black Friday, this threshold, while essential for security, can unintentionally block user access, impacting the overall experience and damaging sales.

Decreasing Conversion Rates:
Rate limiting does not just limit visitors during an attack; it also makes the website slower for those already there. This can be frustrating for users and make their experience less than ideal. As a result, fewer users might purchase items, sign up, or engage with the site.

Ineffectiveness in Blocking Malicious Traffic

Rate limiting, while shaping the overall traffic volume, falls short in its primary objective of distinguishing between legitimate and malicious traffic. As a mechanism that limits the rate of incoming traffic, it lacks the sophistication needed to effectively identify and mitigate malicious traffic. This limitation underscores the critical need for a more intelligent approach to security.

Endless configuration maintenance on SOC operations

Rate limiting not only struggles to distinguish between legitimate and malicious traffic but also introduces a maintenance challenge for the SOC team. SOC teams face the ongoing task of tracking and fine-tuning configurations and thresholds regularly. This continuous effort is necessary to adapt to changes in user behavior, evolving traffic patterns, and emerging cyber threats. The need for constant attention and manual adjustments highlights the limitations of relying solely on rate limiting.

The Evolution to Behavioral Protections

In recognizing these pitfalls, our SOC team confronted the need for a more intelligent, proactive, and adaptable defense strategy. The shortcomings of rate limiting prompted a critical reassessment of our security posture, leading to the adoption of advanced behavioral protections that could effectively counter the challenges posed by dynamic and evolving DDoS attacks.

Benefits of Behavioral Protections

Behavioral protection is a sophisticated approach that goes beyond traditional methods, leveraging machine learning to detect and mitigate anomalies based on learned patterns of legitimate traffic.

As we step into the world of advanced cybersecurity, the advantages of behavioral protections take center stage, reshaping our defense strategy.

Now, let us explore the key benefits that make the behavioral protections stand out:

Adaptive Defense and Business Continuity:
The standout feature of behavioral protection lies in their enhanced adaptability, countering the dynamic nature of modern DDoS attacks, and consistently learning from customer traffic to automatically fine-tune the baselines. This adaptability enhances the security infrastructure, translating to an improved user experience and sustained business continuity, while also assisting the SOC team in focusing on critical tasks.

Reduce Time to Mitigate:
Behavioral protections not only enhance accuracy and adaptability but also offer a crucial advantage in reducing the time it takes to mitigate potential threats. Operating in real-time, these measures swiftly identify and respond to emerging threats, minimizing the impact of attacks immediately.

Enhanced Accuracy and Minimal Disruptions:
Behavioral protection represents a significant leap in our security measures. Unlike conventional rate limiting, they leverage machine learning to accurately identify malicious activity based on the legitimate traffic learning. This proactive approach substantially reduces false positives, ensuring minimal disruptions for legitimate users while swiftly pinpointing potential threats.


While rate limiting served as a foundational defense, its pitfalls, including ineffectiveness against complex attacks, impact on legitimate traffic, and endless configuration maintenance, prompted our transition. Behavioral protections emerged as the solution, offering enhanced accuracy, adaptability, and reduced time to mitigate threats. This evolution not only strengthens our security posture but signifies a commitment to innovation, ensuring business continuity, and empowering SOC teams to focus on critical tasks.

Roi Tirosh

Roi Tirosh is a security product manager at Radware with over 15 years of experience in the cybersecurity industry. As a product manager, Roi successfully drives innovation and integrates new technologies into Radware’s security products and solutions. With a strong and successful track record, Roi brings a unique perspective to his role, combining technical expertise with business acumen.

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