Learning Center February 6, 2024

DDoS Attacks: What You Need To Know

In the intricate web of digital security threats, one particularly disruptive technique stands out: the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. This form of cyber assault involves numerous compromised systems, often referred to as bots or zombies, which are used to overwhelm a target website with an avalanche of requests. The result? Legitimate users find themselves unable to access the site, leading to significant operational disruptions.

DDoS attacks can stem from a variety of motivations. In some cases, they’re deployed as competitive tactics, aiming to gain an edge by hamstringing rival websites. In others, they serve as a form of digital protest, expressing discontent or anger towards government bodies or other organizations. As we delve deeper into the nature of DDoS attacks, it’s essential to understand their mechanics and the diverse reasons behind their deployment in the digital landscape.

How DDoS attacks work 

As an example, imagine you are running a small library. Typically, you have around 30 to 40 real visitors every hour, which is manageable. But imagine if suddenly, a massive group of fake visitors came in, crowding out the real ones. You’d have no choice but to close the library temporarily to handle the situation. This is similar to what happens in a DDoS attack.

In a DDoS attack, cyber attackers send a flood of fake internet traffic to a website or service. This is like those fake visitors in the library – they take up all the space, making it impossible for real users to get through. The website or service becomes so overwhelmed that it may stop working or need to be temporarily shut down. This kind of attack can cause big problems for the website or service, affecting real users who need to access it.

Types of DDoS attacks 

There are different types of DDoS attacks. Some of the most common types of DDoS attacks are: 

Volumetric Attacks 

Volumetric Attacks are a common but serious threat in the world of cybersecurity. These attacks happen when hackers flood a server with so much traffic that it uses up all the server’s bandwidth. Imagine a road meant for regular traffic suddenly filled with an overwhelming number of cars, causing a massive traffic jam. That’s what happens to a server during a Volumetric Attack.

The main goal of these attacks is to make the server so busy dealing with the flood of useless traffic that it can’t serve legitimate users. This not only causes immediate problems for users trying to access the server but can also damage the trust and reliability of the service in the long run. Preventing and handling these types of attacks is crucial, especially for businesses and services that always need to be available online.

Protocol Attacks 

Protocol Attacks are a type of cyber threat where hackers target the rules and systems that help networks communicate, known as protocols. A common example is the SYN flooding attack. In this attack, hackers overwhelm a server with fake requests for connection, known as SYN packets. These requests use false IP addresses, which means the server waits for replies that will never come.

Imagine a scenario where someone continuously rings a doorbell but runs away each time; it’s a similar situation for the server during a SYN flood attack. The server gets flooded with these fake requests and cannot tell them apart from real ones. This overload prevents the server from connecting to actual, legitimate devices trying to communicate. By attacking how networks talk to each other, SYN flood attacks can effectively block real users from accessing a server.

Application layer Attacks 

Application Layer Attacks are a specific DDoS attack targeting parts of a website or online service that users commonly use, like login pages or search functions. Instead of attacking the deeper technical infrastructure, these attacks flood these common features with too many fake requests.

It’s like having a crowd of people constantly asking questions at a customer service desk, making it impossible for the staff to help real customers. In the online world, this flood of fake requests slows down or even stops these features from working, blocking real users from using the service.

These attacks can be tricky because they look like regular user activity, making it difficult for security systems to differentiate between real and fake traffic. Application Layer Attacks can cause major problems, especially for services where quick and easy access is essential.

Prevention against DDoS attacks 

Protecting against DDoS attacks involves several vital steps to ensure your online services remain secure and operational. One effective measure is to use DDoS mitigation services. These services work like a filter, sorting out harmful traffic from legitimate visitors to your website, helping to keep it running smoothly even during an attack.

Regularly monitoring your network traffic is also crucial. Pay attention to sudden increases in traffic, as these can be early signs of a DDoS attack. Being alert to these changes allows you to respond quickly.

Additional prevention tips include:

  • Creating a response plan: Have a clear strategy for responding to a DDoS attack. This includes identifying who to contact, what steps to take to mitigate the attack, and how to communicate with users if services are affected.
  • Using Cloud-based services: Cloud-based services can absorb and disperse the large amounts of traffic associated with DDoS attacks. This is due to their larger bandwidth and distributed nature.
  • Implementing network redundancy: Having multiple pathways for your network traffic can help maintain service availability even if one path is under attack.
  • Employing rate limiting: This restricts the number of requests a server can receive from a single IP address, helping to prevent overload.
  • Updating security protocols regularly: Keep your security systems and software up-to-date to defend against the latest DDoS tactics.

Combining these strategies can strengthen your defense against DDoS attacks, ensuring your digital presence remains resilient and reliable.

Navigating the storm: Fortifying against DDoS attacks

The threat of DDoS attacks, with their varied forms and deceptive strategies, underscores a critical challenge in our digital age. From the overwhelming force of Volumetric Attacks to the cunning subtlety of Application Layer Attacks, these cyber onslaughts represent a relentless test of our digital defenses. Understanding the mechanics and motives behind these attacks is crucial, but it’s equally vital to proactively establish robust protective measures. 

By implementing strategies such as regular network monitoring, employing DDoS mitigation services, and maintaining up-to-date security protocols, we can withstand and outmaneuver these digital tempests. As we continue to evolve in our online endeavors, staying vigilant and prepared against DDoS attacks is not just a technical necessity but a fundamental aspect of safeguarding our digital landscape.