The digitization of the global economy has been a boon for people around the world as there is far greater connectivity than ever before, and now one can find a customer, client, friend, or even an acquaintance in any part of the world, thanks to the internet technology.
What is a DDoS attack?
DDoS, also known as Distributed Denial of Service, attacks are malicious attempts aimed at disrupting the usual web traffic on a server, network, or service, by directing a flood of fake internet traffic so that the host will suffer a breakdown due to a large number of incoming requests.
DDoS attacks are effective because they use multiple computer terminals or systems that have been compromised to create the source for traffic attacks. In simple terms, a DDoS attack is like a massive highway traffic jam that prevents the arrival of regular traffic at its intended destination.
How does a DDoS attack work?
A network of machines connected over the internet is used to carry out a DDoS attack. These machines include computer systems and IoT devices, already infected by malware, which is leveraged by the attacker to gain access to these systems. The individual devices on the network are called bots while the group of these bots is also known as a botnet.
As soon as a botnet is established, the attacker can send remote instructions to the individual bots to target the victim network or server. This causes each bot to send repeated requests to the target IP address, flooding it with an unusually high number of requests, thus causing a denial-of-service for normal traffic.
How can a DDoS attack be identified?
The most common symptom of a DDoS attack is the slowing of a website or service execution speed. Since this can also happen if there is a legitimate spike in the web traffic, it is required to further look for some of the telltale signs as shared below.
- An unexpected and sudden increase in the requests to a single endpoint or page
- A large traffic volume from users with the same behavioral profile, such as web browser version, geolocation, or device type
- A single IP or IP range is the source for suspicious traffic quantity
- Odd traffic patterns such as traffic spikes during odd hours
Depending on the type of the DDoS attack, there can be more specific signs as well.
What are the types of DDoS attacks?
DDoS attacks can be broadly classified into three categories as described below.
- Application Layer Attack – This is done to create a denial of service by exhausting the target’s resources
- Protocol Attack – This causes overconsumption of server resources to cause disruption to the service
- Volumetric Attack – This type of attack creates congestion in the network by utilizing the entire available bandwidth between the internet and the target
Why is a DDoS attack dangerous?
DDoS attacks are a serious threat to the continuity of online businesses due to the increasing dependence of businesses on internet-based services and applications. In addition to financial services, retailers, and gaming companies, DDoS attacks also pose a serious threat for applications that are critical for the daily operations of your business. Many industry verticals such as pharma, healthcare, and manufacturing rely on internet-based applications for managing their supply chains. If these systems are attacked, the businesses will face losses, with massive disruption to the economy. If the attacked website or application is used by end-users, it will result in lost revenue and angry customers.
DDoS attacks are also generally used as a smokescreen to provide cover for more dangerous attacks. This increases the financial cost associated with recovery after a DDoS attack. The larger the company, the higher will be the recovery cost.
How to prevent DDoS attacks?
- Attackers often use multiple vectors for attacks which means that a multi-layered DDoS protection system should be implemented
- The multi-layered DDoS protection system should be augmented with a managed intelligent and comprehensive security solution
- Regularly scan, test, and audit your website or application to find any vulnerability or point of entry which can be leveraged by attackers
- Use a CDN service with a Web Application Firewall (WAF) as both technologies complement each other to reduce the attack surface
- Critical resources must be protected from exposure by using load balancers
- Use a managed and intelligent WAF to detect and profile the incoming requests at an early stage to stay ahead of the attackers. This must be implemented at the network perimeter
- Limit the number of requests accepted by a server over a specific time frame
DDoS attacks while not being sophisticated, can disrupt a business and its operations substantially. Sometimes, DDoS attacks are carried out to cover the tracks of more sinister and deadlier attacks on systems and networks. It is important to understand how DDoS attacks are carried out and how the risks posed by such attacks can be mitigated to keep your business out of harm’s way.