DDoS attacks, short for “Distributed Denial-of-Service” attacks, are an attempt to disrupt and often stop the flow of web traffic on a server. They are increasingly common tactics used by hackers and other malicious actors on the internet to try and hurt businesses and individuals financially, or to extort them for a variety of reasons.
While there have been many high-profile DDoS attacks in recent years, they can happen to anyone. Below are some important things to know about avoiding and mitigating the damage caused by the various DDoS attacks.
Guarding Against a DDoS Attack With a VPN
VPNs should be considered an important part of your cybersecurity strategy when it comes to warding off and thwarting DDoS attacks. This is because in order for an attacker to effectively target you, they will need your network location, which involves knowing your IP address.
Since VPNs work by obscuring your IP address and directing any attempts to analyze your connection to the VPNs server, they are invaluable defensive tools. Browse popular VPN providers to see which ones offer you the best protection.
The Anatomy of a Volume-Based DDoS Attack
DDoS attacks begin with several compromised computer systems, which are commandeered using malware and then weaponized against the target server. These vulnerable devices can include both computers, as well as other “internet of things” (i.e. anything with a connection to the internet commonly found in people’s homes, in public, and things they carry on them).
The person or group carrying out the DDoS attack then directs the devices under their control to essentially spam requests to the target’s IP address, eventually overwhelming their server or network. What ends up happening is a site’s available bandwidth is used up processing bogus traffic. This results in a “denial of service” to the site’s regular traffic, which could mean lost business/visibility etcetera. It is no wonder that some of the biggest websites are constantly wary of DDoS campaigns.
The Anatomy of a Protocol Attack
Protocol attacks are different, although their end game (disrupting your website’s normal traffic) is the same. Protocol attacks try to burden a server by consuming its resources, eventually forcing it offline.
If these attempts are unsuccessful, they will usually try to consume firewall and load balancer resources, which make accessing a site nearly impossible. These attacks try to exploit internet protocol architecture by sending servers malicious message protocol packets.
The Anatomy of an Application-Layer Attack
An application-layer attack involves an even different approach. This approach focuses on the layer of the server responsible for responding to connection requests and loading web pages. Using this method, a spammer unleashes a flood of connection requests (such as page refresh requests) until a server becomes so inundated it is no longer capable of responding, and crashes.
The financial cost of a DDoS Attack
The bottom line is that DDoS attacks, if you are a business owner, represent the potential for lost revenue. This comes in two forms: the time that your site is down because of an attack, and a drop in customer trust because of the attack.
Depending on how large your business is and how much revenue you generate online, a DDoS attack could potentially mean a significant hit to your revenue. There are many stories of companies being put out of business because of a DDoS attack.
Once your site’s security is breached and customers have found out about it, it is nearly impossible to gain that trust back. People want to feel that their information is secure when using your site and doing business with you and if they believe it is easy for you to be targeted, they will likely believe it is easy for them to be targeted as well.
DDoS and the Internet of Things
The internet of things, commonly referred to the shorthand “IOT,” is a term used to describe the myriad devices we use and interact with throughout our daily lives that are connected to the internet in some way. Often these things do not have a user interface, which can lead people to believe they are less vulnerable to hacking and misuse than they really are.
The consumer internet of things, however, is expected to grow by more than seven billion devices worldwide by the end of 2020, which represents a massive increase in the number of potential devices that can be used and targeted in DDoS attacks. Our increasing connectedness brings with it a corresponding increase in the threat of cyber attacks.
DDoS attacks are one of the most common cybersecurity threats online and being aware of them, planning for them and, above all, attempting to mitigate them should be considered a cost of doing business online. There are tools, such as VPNs, that can provide additional security for site-owners, but in an increasingly connected world, cybersecurity will represent a growing concern for websites of all sizes.