Axios thwarts attacks and future proofs infrastructure with Cloudflare

As reliance on print media continues to decline, more people are tracking breaking news on digital-native news websites and social media platforms than ever before. Readers want convenience, brevity, and value from a trusted source — and that’s where Axios shines.

Launched by Jim VandeHei, Roy Schwartz and Mike Allen in 2017, Axios is an American news website that produces short, bullet point-laden articles designed to capture attention and educate quickly. The strategy is working: the site saw more than 19 million visits in January 2020, while more than half a million subscribers receive one or more of their newsletters on topics like politics, sports, business, technology, and the world.

“Our mission is to get people smarter, faster on what matters,” says Jess Szmajda, Chief Technology Officer at Axios. “We connect people with things that matter in the world, in the most efficient and worthy use of their time.”

The challenge

Even as Axios seeks to differentiate itself and build a strong audience, they still face the same security vulnerabilities that affect their competitors in the online news industry. High-profile media organizations have been targeted by DDoS attacks designed to overwhelm their networks and compromise sensitive information. For Axios, launching a proactive defense against would-be attackers is a top-of-mind concern.

“High news consumption and surges in traffic from breaking news means that media companies are constantly at risk or under a DDoS attack,” Szmajda explains.

They’re not the only ones. According to the 101 organizations polled in the 2019 US Signal State of Web and DDoS Attacks Survey, more than 80 percent of respondents faced a DDoS attack over the last two years, and more than 50 percent were targeted on multiple occasions.

Axios requires bulletproof security protocols that can offer standout protection against DDoS attacks. They also need exceptional performance solutions that allow them to reach their global audience and handle the massive traffic spikes associated with breaking news cycles. Cloudflare provided both.

Integrated security and performance solutions help Axios build trustworthiness

Unwilling to risk a massive DDoS attack slowing down their site, Axios turned to Cloudflare to help get ahead. Cloudflare Advanced DDos Protection defends Axios from volumetric DDoS attacks by automatically blocking malicious traffic, while delivering content from Cloudflare's global network, spanning 200 cities in more than 90 countries. This helps ensure that readers never experience a site outage or significant slowdown.

That level of security gives Axios peace of mind and helps them uphold one of their core tenets: to build and retain reader trust.

“Our audience’s ability to access our content at all times is critical to our brand reputation,” Szmajda says. “It’s imperative that we choose a partner we can rely on to make sure that the right people can read our articles and that the wrong people can’t take our site down.”

With Cloudflare’s security solution in place, Axios has never suffered the effects of a targeted DDoS attack.

The Cloudflare network not only shields Axios from incoming threats, but also delivers their content to readers as expeditiously as possible. By serving content closer to end users, Axios can extend their reach around the world, whether a reader is following political events in Copenhagen or perusing sports coverage in Philadelphia.

“People depend on Axios to do their jobs in real time, so delivering a fast and efficient user experience was top-of-mind as we considered different services,” adds Szmajda.

Cloudflare also acts as a layer of abstraction between Axios and their cloud provider, which helps them circumvent vendor lock-in and ensures that they have the freedom to select the best solutions for their needs.

Axios expands edge capabilities with Cloudflare Workers

After establishing a strong defense against DDoS attacks and improving site performance, Axios turned their attention to Cloudflare Workers, a serverless platform that allows users to build and deploy custom applications at the network edge using simple JavaScript.

Axios engineers use Cloudflare Workers to deliver ESI (Edge-Side-Includes) functionality, which empowers them to cache static content while filling in dynamic page elements. As a result, Axios can cache everything and save hits against their origin.

“Thanks to the availability of some of Cloudflare’s off-the-shelf examples and libraries, our engineers can produce very capable proof-of-concepts in a relatively short time,” Szmajda explains. “Now, we can build functions that are more understandable and maintainable over time.”

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Key Results
  • Cloudflare helps Axios with CDN and DDoS protection services

  • Cloudflare Workers enables Axios to significantly improve their cache hit ratio

Our audience’s ability to access our content at all times is critical to our brand reputation. It’s imperative that we choose a partner we can rely on to make sure that the right people can read our articles and that the wrong people can’t take our site down.

Jess Szmajda
Chief Technology Officer