Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are one of the most common types of cyberattacks, due to how effective they are and how easy they are for even a non-tech-savvy person to execute. Designed to overwhelm the resources of a server, usually by using a network of bots, these attacks can interfere with almost any business or online endeavor.
Fortunately, once you understand how these attacks work, you can deploy measures to prevent them or stop them in their tracks.
Resource Overloading – The Heart Of A DDoS Attack
All online operations rely on the functionality of machines and other resources. For example, servers provide data to users requesting those data. Most machines and online resources have a finite capacity; they can only serve so many requests in a given period of time.
The denial-of-service model attempts to exploit this fact. A perpetrator can issue superfluous requests in such high volume that the resource can no longer operate. You can think of it like hundreds of people cramming themselves into a relatively small store; at some point, no one else will be able to enter the store, and the people trapped inside will be unable to conduct ordinary buying activities.
In a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack specifically, the traffic for the attack comes from a variety of different sources; this is to prevent the possibility of shutting down the attack by blocking a single source.
There are many reasons why someone may execute a DDoS attack, but some of the most common include:
- Revenge/spite. Some people execute DDoS attacks against companies or organizations they perceive have wronged them in some way.
- Others attempt to launch a DDoS attack (or threaten one) to exploit their victim, usually demanding a ransom.
- Some DDoS attacks are launched by activists, who hope to make a point or damage an entity they see as an enemy.
- Boredom/experimentation. Still others plan and launch DDoS attacks because they want to test their own skills, or show off what they can do.
Accordingly, almost any business or organization can be a target.
Types Of DDoS Attacks
There are also several individual types of DDoS attacks that could be launched. Volumetric attacks are the most common, leveraging bots that send large numbers of false requests to every available port and rendering legitimate requests impossible. Application layer attacks, by contrast, interfere with web traffic via HTTP, HTTPS, DNS, or SMTP protocols. And protocol attacks specifically target network elements that verify connections.
Bot Mitigation And Anti-Spam
You can also practice load balancing, which allows you to intelligently distribute incoming requests across multiple servers. If done properly, no single server will be completely overwhelmed by a sudden spike in traffic. If a DDoS attack begins to unfold, your load balancing techniques can efficiently distribute the traffic so it can’t negatively impact the legitimate requests made by real users. You can also invest in higher resource capacity overall, making it that much harder to completely overwhelm your servers.
Even the best DDoS defense strategies aren’t able to prevent 100 percent of attacks. Accordingly, if you want to mitigate attacks in progress and better understand your network’s security, you’ll need some kind of active monitoring strategy in place. You should get automatic alerts when unusual traffic or activity is detected, and be in a position to respond.
The Most Important Takeaway – Have A Plan
If you want to minimize your risk of being a victim of a DDoS attack, the best step you can take is simply to form a plan. What steps are you and your employees taking to reduce the possibility of being subjected to a DDoS attack? If a DDoS attack occurs, how quickly will you notice it? And when you do, how will you respond?
Take the time to document these DDoS-related policies and practices, and define your organization-wide DDoS mitigation strategy. The more time you spend on this proactively, the more resilient you’ll be to an actual threat.
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