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Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks remain a major security problem, the mitigation of which is very hard especially when it comes to highly distributed botnet-based attacks. The early discovery of these attacks, although challenging, is necessary to protect end-users as well as the expensive network infrastructure resources. In this paper, we address the problem of DDoS attacks and present the theoretical foundation, architecture, and algorithms of FireCol. The core of FireCol is composed of intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) located at the Internet service providers (ISPs) level. The IPSs form virtual protection rings around the hosts to defend and collaborate by exchanging selected traffic information. The evaluation of FireCol using extensive simulations and a real dataset is presented, showing FireCol effectiveness and low overhead, as well as its support for incremental deployment in real networks.