DDoS attacks are increasingly becoming a serious issue for organizations across the globe.
According to securitymagazine.com, compared to Q4 of 2020, the total attack volume in Q1 of 2021 increased by 31% while the total number of attacks decreased by 2%. The largest recorded attack in Q1 of 2021 was 295Gbps, up from 260Gbps in Q4 of 2020.
Therefore, protecting server infrastructures and web applications is no longer a choice for businesses that have a significant portion of their operations online. A successfully implemented DDoS attack can negatively impact a business’s reputation. Alongside this, it can damage client relationships and make a company lose thousands of dollars. The issue is so grave that major enterprises are losing upwards of $40,000 per hour due to DDoS attacks. Additionally, smaller businesses are experiencing significant damages.
Cyber-attacks can be so severe that they hold the potential to end the life of a business. Nevertheless, as serious as DDoS attacks sound, they can be avoided, or their effect could be lessened through correct vulnerability assessment and management. It is all about following the right approach and making informed decisions. Quite naturally, DDoS protection is of paramount significance.
With that said, in this post, we are going to explain everything you need to know about DDoS attacks. Including what they are, the types of DDoS attacks, DDoS mitigation techniques, DDoS protection, and how to prevent a DDoS attack.
Table of Contents
What is a DDoS Attack?
DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service is one of the most popular cyber-attacks of the 21st-century. The primary objective of this type of online attack is to overwhelm your web server by taking it down completely or cripple it from further functioning.
The attacker uses a range of tools, such as bots, and distributed machines in different locations, to flood the server with signals repeatedly. They do this until your server fails to perform even the simplest requests from users.
In simple terms, DDoS attackers target critical services by overwhelming the network with malicious traffic. They use multiple malware-infected devices and computers to target a single system. When this happens, the website or app becomes unable to respond or crashes.
While hackers prominently target financial institutions and large businesses, SMEs are also at risk.
This is why it is vital for any organization – whether small or large – to learn about these attackers to prevent a Distributed Denial of Service attack and ensure complete DDoS protection.
Types of DDoS Attacks
Because a Distributed Denial of Service attack is launched from several compromised devices, attackers use various methods to implement the strategy. That is, there are different types of DDoS attacks that can be categorized based on the effect they have on the server.
Essentially, DDoS attacks are categorized into three types.
Volumetric attacks are the classic DDoS attacks. This strategy generates significant volumes of traffic. It saturates the bandwidth of the server, causing a traffic jam, and making it difficult and nearly impossible for genuine traffic to flow in and out. This is the most common type of denial of service attack, with its magnitude measured in bits per second (Bps). Now, within this type of attack, there are specific DDoS attack styles that one should know.
- DNS Amplification: DNS amplification is a type of volumetric attack that is typically a supercharged reflection attack where it cripples the bandwidth by enhancing the outbound flow of traffic. The attackers use a technique of making information requests from the server. The server outputs significant amounts of data and routes it back to the server by compromising the reply-to address.
- ICMP and UDP Floods: Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) pings, echo requests, or User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets are common volumetric attacks that flood host resources until the service is overwhelmed. It is strategized in a way that the malicious packets or echo requests appear to come from the victim. Therefore, the server sends the response back to itself.
Application Layer Attacks
Application layer attacks are considered to be the sophisticated form of DDoS attack where the hackers exploit the weaknesses in the application layer. The primary objective of this type of DDoS attack is to crash the server. The magnitude of the attack is measured in requests per second (Rps). It works in a way that the application layer or Layer 7 is exploited by opening connections and implementing transaction and process requests. This results in the consumption of finite resources like the available memory and disk space.
- HTTP Flood: In the application layer attack, HTTP floods are the most prevalent. The attackers use a technique where it seems like the interactions coming from web browsers are regular user activities. In reality, these interactions are coordinated to exhaust as many resources from the webserver as possible.
The last in this segment is the protocol attacks that are designed and developed to consume the processing capacity of network infrastructure resources, such as load balancing, firewalls, and servers, by targeting Layer 3 and Layer 4 protocol communications. Hackers use malicious connection requests to initiate the attack. That attack’s magnitude is measured in packets per second (Pps). There are several different attack styles within protocol attacks.
- Ping of Death: It is a type of protocol attack that is designed to cause server-side system malfunction. In a normal ping attack, it just crashes the bandwidth with its sheer volume. However, in the ping of death, the hacker utilizes the vulnerabilities within a targeted system using packet content. This causes the website to freeze.
- SYN Flood: It is a common protocol attack that evades the 3-way handshake process used for establishing TCP connections between servers and clients. It works in a way that the attack makes a rapid succession of the initial synchronization requests. This leaves the webserver to hang.
How to Stop DDoS Attacks?
With the denial of service attacks ever-growing, businesses need a hybrid and blended approach to counter the effect. Below we have listed some mitigation methods that you can use to prevent DDoS attacks.
Have a DDoS Playbook
A DDoS playbook will help you in documenting in detail each step involved in a pre-planned response at the time of an attack. The playbook should include the actions, contact names, phone numbers, etc.
Identify Early On
The best way or measure to mitigate DDoS attacks is to identify them early on. The earlier you identify suspicious activities, the sooner you can stop the attack.
Provision Additional Bandwidth
Overprovision of bandwidth can make your web server capable of handling additional traffic out of the blue.
Physically Limit Your Server
This is a vital point to keep in mind. Limiting access to your server room to a few individuals can help prevent it from compromising its integrity. You have to identify the right solutions according to the anticipated cyber threats.
Call Your Hosting Provider
Notify your ISP or hosting provider about the attack immediately and ask for help. Depending on the magnitude of the attack, it is possible that your ISP has already detected the attack and has started working to mitigate it. Or it is possible that they even are overwhelmed with the attack.
Call a DDoS Specialist
If the attack is severe, do not hesitate to call a DDoS expert. There are DDoS specialist companies that work dedicatedly to help businesses mitigate the issue and also for blocking. They work in a way that if your company experiences a DDoS attack, the specialist will divert all your traffic to them.
Use a CDN
A CDN or content delivery network is a distributed group of servers working together to provide quick and prompt delivery of internet content. A CDN helps you boost your website speed and ensures to drive away from the malicious traffic from your site.
Practice Basic Network Security
Lastly, you are advised to use DDoS best practices to prevent advanced attacks. It starts with your basic network security. You need to secure your network using strong and complex passwords, practice anti-phishing activities, strengthen your firewalls, and change your passwords on a regular basis.
So How Do I Stop a DDoS Attack?
In order to prevent DDoS attacks from happening, it is vital to understand what it is and how it can compromise your business reputation. Make sure you partner with a professional DDoS specialist who can guide you through the entire process and give you access to best practices.
Services like “Cloudflare DDoS” are very recommenders because provide a content delivery network, internet security services, and distributed domain name server services, located between the visitor and the user’s hosting provider and acting as a reverse proxy for websites.