DDoS: What is it? & How can I Protect my Site?

DDoS What is it & how can I protect my site 1

Irrespective of the type of your business, how huge or small it is, it can become a victim of cybercrime. If this happens, your business, brand, and revenue will get affected. Hence, it is important to implement DDoS protection that is effective. This will ensure to secure your online property. And, you will not be caught off-guard but will be able to fight away any such attacks.

What is Actually a DDoS Attack?

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. A DDoS attack is a very common cyber-attack. When such an attack happens, your web server, network or service gets flooded with traffic that can disrupt normal operations. 

These attacks are done by attacking the target network or server by sending messages or by requesting fake packets. When this targeted server attempts to take care of all these requests, its server slows down because of exceeding the bandwidth limit. Sometimes these servers may even crash or just become unavailable. It is just like a traffic jam at an intersection on a highway. One cannot move if there is traffic congestion, especially because more vehicles keep joining in. Even the ones at the back get stuck.

If your server, which is your business’s critical system, gets attacked, then the complete network infrastructure could crash down and halt your business. Also, there are other kinds of attacks that get launched during the downtime of the server. These attacks like extortions and ransomware can cause a huge problem for your business economically.

The traffic usually gets generated from botnets. This actually is a bunch of devices and systems that have been compromised. They contain malware. With the increase in the number of devices connecting to the net, mainly loT devices, launching such cybersecurity threats is easier now.

DDoS Attack Types

Such attacks can differ depending on the methods of attacks used. It also depends on how these attack vectors are used. A few of the familiar DDoS attack types are mentioned below:

Volumetric Attacks

These attacks target the network of a machine so as to engulf its bandwidth. This is a very common DDoS attack type. It operates by flooding the target with huge amounts of data requests that are fake. Legitimate traffic cannot pass through while these false data requests are being checked by the machine.

UDP floods & ICMP floods are the two common types of volumetric attacks.

Under UDP attacks, the attack is made by using the format of UDP and its feature of quick data transmission that avoids integrity checks. This generates reflection and amplification attacks. When it comes to ICMP attacks, the attack is aimed at the nodes of the network to send the target fake error requests. When the target gets engulfed with these error messages that are unreal, real requests don’t get answered by it.

Protocol Attacks 

This type of attack consumes the resources of the server. It mainly attacks those areas of the network that verify connections. The attack is done by sending malformed pings, partial packets, and slow pings. This leads to the target computer’s memory buffer getting overloaded and thereby crashing the system. Web Applications Firewalls can also be compromised by protocol attacks. Hence, this type of DDoS threats firewalls cannot stop.

One of the very common protocol attacks is the SYN flood attack. In this attack, an IP/TCP connection is initiated without getting it finalized. The client who is the attacker here will send an SYN packet. The server will then send this client an ACK (acknowledge). As per procedure, the client should then reply with an ACK packet. But it doesn’t do this. It just makes the server wait. By doing this, the client uses the resources of the server.

Application Layer Attacks

Such attacks are focused on the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model’s topmost layer, called the L7 layer. Web traffic is their main focus. They are launched through HTTPS, HTTP, SMTP or DNS. They target the application’s vulnerabilities. This stops them from providing their users with the content.

It is not easy to prevent such application-layer attacks because very few resources are used by them. Sometimes just one machine is used by them. All this paints a false picture making these attacks look like legitimate traffic in increased volume, and thus the server gets tricked.

These approaches can also be combined by hackers for launching a multifaceted attack on the target.

DDoS Attacks History

In 1974, the 1st DoS attack was done. It happened because of the fascination of a boy aged 13 from Illinois. The computer terminals of thirty-one Universities of Illinois were forced to shut down by him with the use of the then new command ” ext ” which was vulnerable simultaneously. 

Later in the 1990s, simple bandwidths chat floods, and DoS attacks were used to target Internet Relay Chat. But the 1st massive DDoS happened in 1999. The hacker disabled the computer network of the Minnesota University for two days using the tool “Trinoo”. Later, other attacks were seen. Today these cyber-attacks are more widespread.

What Happens During a DDoS Attack?

Seeing the damage caused to the web business and property using DDoS attacks, you will think the attackers are really huge. DNS, web and application servers, internet bandwidth, routers, and web application firewalls, take care of big volumes of connections every day. When a chain of systems that have been compromised send thousands or hundreds of connections, a DDoS attack happens.

The servers are not able to handle this huge volume of requests. A botnet can make this happen easily. Even any hijacked system’s linked network can do this. Few DDoS attacks disguise themselves so they can target those systems which control the servers and sites.

There is a lot of possibilities for them to get infected with malware. This often happens through the virus Trojan. The systems then become a part of the infiltrating botnet. Attackers may simultaneously attack various parts of the network of a company. Or, DDoS events may be used by them to hide such crimes as fraud or theft.

9 Ways DDoS Attacks Can Be Prevented

Prevention of cyber-attacks can be done partially by using automation technology. However, it does need human monitoring and intelligence to completely protect your site. Web structures that are traditional are not enough. The best protection is offered by the multi-layered security of the Cloud, whose development and monitoring are done by very committed and experienced engineers.

It is important to understand the working of DDoS attacks and your network’s behaviour if you wish to prevent interruptions, intrusions, and downtime that happens because of cyber-attacks. Some tips that will help you prevent DDoS attacks are:

Implementation of Practices for the Sound Monitoring of your Network

The first thing that could be done to reduce DDoS attacks is to understand when you will be hit by one. For this, you will need to implement a technology that will help you in monitoring your network in a timely manner. You will need to know the average bandwidth amount used by your sites in order to be able to track any anomalies as and when they occur.

If you’re someone who is familiar with the normal behaviour of your network, you will detect any of these real-time attacks as visual clues are offered by DDoS attacks.

Practicing Basic Level of Security Hygiene

Every organization can take simple steps to make sure to have security at least of the basic level against DDoS attacks. Some of these practices include the usage of complex passwords, resetting passwords every few weeks, and avoiding writing down or storing passwords in notes. If you follow this basic hygiene of security, you will be able to save your business from an attack. Many businesses get compromised because they do not follow these simple basic steps.

Setting Up of Basic Thresholds for Traffic

Using few other measures of technical security, you may be able to mitigate partial DDoS attacks. These measures include setting up thresholds and limits for traffic, like limiting the rate of traffic on your filters and routers on packets coming from sources that are suspicious.

Setting lower ICMP, UDP, and SYN thresholds for flood drop, blacklisting IP, signature identification and geo-blocking are a few of the techniques that can be adopted by you as an initial step for reducing or preventing DDoS attacks. You will be able to gather more time using these simple steps. But you need to remember that DDoS threats are evolving constantly. Hence, other strategies will also have to be in place to completely prevent these types of attacks.

Having an Up-to-Date Security Infrastructure

The strength of your network is determined by the weakest links. Hence it is vital to know about legacy & outdated systems present in your infrastructure. Often, these become entry points through which attacks could happen once they get compromised.

Make sure that your systems and data center is kept updated. Also, remember to patch the web application firewalls & other security programs of the network. Apart from that, also try to work with your hosting provider or ISP, data center and security vendor to implement other modern protection capabilities.

Get Ready with a Battle Plan as a Response to the DDoS Attack  

You cannot plan a response after being hit by a DDoS attack. Your response should be ready before any such attacks happen. This will help minimize the impact of these attacks or threats. The following things should be included in your response plan:

Tool Checklist – All tools that will need to be implemented should be mentioned in a list. These tools could include assessment, advanced detection of threats, hardware, software, and filtering.

Response Team – A special team with well-defined responsibilities and roles that they need to perform when an attack happens or gets detected.

Escalation Protocols – Rules that are clearly defined need to be in place. These rules should make it clear as to who needs to be notified, involved and whom the matter needs to be escalated to when an attack is detected.

Communication Plan – There should be a plan in place for contacting external and internal stakeholders, also your vendors, ISP, and customers. A well-planned strategy is needed to know how to get the news communicated in a timely manner.

Ensure the Server Capacity is Sufficient

Because volumetric DDoS threats happen by flooding the bandwidth of the network, you can counter this by getting the bandwidth overprovisioned. When you increase the bandwidth, you are increasing the capacity of your server to handle the sudden flow of heavy traffic. By doing this, you get ready to handle unexpected traffic surges created by DDoS attacks. Though this may not completely stop DDoS attacks, it will let you have some extra minutes that will help you create other defences much before all your resources get used.

Understand the Cloud-Based Protection Solutions for DDoS 

Exploring DDoS protection solutions that are cloud-based will be wiser if you plan to prevent such attacks or reduce them. More resources and bandwidth are provided by Cloud than private networks. The data centers of the Cloud can absorb any malicious traffic and send it to different areas so that they do not reach the targets intended. 

Use CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A modern, effective way to deal with DDoS threats is the use of a CDN. During DDoS attacks, we know that hosting servers get overloaded. CDNs can assist in load sharing. It could share an equal load to many servers closer to the user in proximity and those that are distributed geographically. This ensures that other servers will be operational if one server stops working. Certificate management & auto certificate renewal and generation can also be provided by CDNs.

Take Professional Support for DDoS Mitigation  

When in need of help, call a professional. Do not hesitate to do so. DNS providers, as well as CDNs, could help in protecting your property online by getting your visitors rerouted, by having the performance monitored on your behalf, and by distributing the traffic across many servers if an attack happens.

The Price of DDoS Attacks

Since the 90s, the DDoS threats and their intentions for doing so have evolved. Today, they can be more easily launched, are fiercer, and are politically based most of the time. Almost every day, orchestrated cybercrimes are carried out on huge target corporations, as well as on small & medium-sized organizations.

Some of the businesses are prepared to tackle them. But, the cost of tackling them is very high. The cost is said to be approximately 500 billion US dollars or more. Still, experts are of the opinion that nearly 50 million of those attacks go undetected every year.

When a cyber-attack happens, the business targeted doesn’t just lose in terms of productivity but also business opportunities and revenue. Its brand image also gets affected. Operational costs hit the roof in most cases while the businesses try to find a solution to safeguard their business and get it back on track. You can also check our article on How to Migrate a WordPress Site to Another Web Host?

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