Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are a major threat to the security of business websites and networks. As the internet grows and technology advances, the methods used by malicious actors to disrupt services, steal data, and damage infrastructure become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to defend against.
However, with the right knowledge and tools, it is possible to protect against and prevent these attacks. In this essential guide, we will explore the different types of DDoS attacks, the motivations behind them, and the steps you can take to defend against them. With the right preparation and awareness, you can protect your network and infrastructure from these malicious threats.
What is a DDoS attack?
A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt a network or service by overloading the system with an excessive amount of traffic from a multitude of sources. The goal of these attacks is to take systems or services offline by overwhelming them with traffic, which can result in a complete network outage, data corruption, stolen data and information, and potential damage to hardware
These types of attacks are not new, but advancements in technology and the availability of low-cost, easy-to-use tools have led to an increase in their frequency, and with it, a critical need for better protection.
A DDoS attack is often launched through a botnet, a network of infected devices that have been taken over by an attacker and used maliciously, such as to generate an excessive amount of fake traffic and send it to a targeted system. This can happen, for example, when an attacker infects a large number of devices, such as home routers, with malware, then uses these machines to send a large amount of attack traffic to a specific online service, hoping to overwhelm its servers and knock it offline.
Types of DDoS attacks
There are many different types of DDoS attacks, each with different characteristics and consequences that can range from causing a minor disruption to causing major damage
Protocol attacks – these attacks are based on the use of a particular protocol or set of rules that determine how data is transferred between two systems.
Application attacks – target specific applications and services, such as HTTP and HTTPS, DNS, and NTP.
Volume attacks – these attacks target the amount of data passing between two systems. Volume attacks can also be used to target the data rate.
Resource attacks – target the number of resources, such as memory and CPU, that a system has.
Bandwidth attacks – these attacks target the amount of bandwidth, such as Internet bandwidth, available to one or more systems.
Motivations behind DDoS attacks
The motivations behind DDoS attacks vary depending on the attacker and their intentions. For example, some DDoS attacks are used for political or ideological reasons, such as to protest against a particular cause or organisation. Other attacks may be motivated by financial gains, such as extorting money from the owner of a website or service. Some attackers may even use DDoS attacks for blackmail.
Regardless of the attacker’s motivations, the result of a DDoS attack is the same: a service or system is taken offline. In the event of a successful attack, employees are unable to access the company’s computer networks, bringing the business to a standstill. Customers visiting a website running eCommerce services are unable to purchase items or get help. This can happen for hours if not days and result in huge revenue loss.
How to detect a DDoS attack
There are several signs that can indicate an attack is a DDoS attack, such as a significant increase in traffic, a sudden drop in performance, or an unusual spike in latency. If you have received a threat to take down your website or network, you may also be being targeted by a DDoS attack.
To detect a DDoS attack, you must monitor your network and systems for signs that something is wrong. In doing so, you can better understand the threats facing your infrastructure and take preventative measures
Monitoring for DDoS attacks can be accomplished through different tools and strategies, including:
- Network traffic monitoring – To understand how much traffic is flowing through your network and where it’s coming from, you can use a network traffic monitoring solution.
- Bandwidth usage – Paying attention to the amount of bandwidth being used can help you detect a potential DDoS attack. Good bandwidth management can help ensure that your network doesn’t become overloaded and crash.
- Performance metrics – Performance metrics, such as connection latency, jitter, and packet loss, can help you identify potential issues, such as a DDoS attack before they cause a total outage.
- Network flow analysis – Network traffic should flow in a steady, consistent pattern, so any sudden changes could indicate that an attack is taking place. Network flow analysis can help you detect anomalies in the way data travels between two points.
Tools and strategies for defending against DDoS attacks
While you can’t completely prevent an attack, you can take steps to protect your network and infrastructure from DDoS attacks by following these tips:
Invest in stronger security – Stronger security can help protect against DDoS attacks. Make sure you’re using the latest security protocols and tools, and you’re enforcing encryption and two-factor authentication.
Find and fix vulnerabilities – Ensure that all of your systems and networks have no exploitable vulnerabilities. This involves performing regular vulnerability scans, applying patches and updates as they become available, and removing any unnecessary software and hardware to reduce your risk.
Strong DNS practices – DNS is one of the weakest links in a network, and many attacks start with poisoned or fake DNS entries. A strong DNS strategy will protect against this type of attack and help keep your network safe
Boost network security – Improve the way your network is managed and monitored so that you can respond quickly to any potential issues. Regularly maintaining your network, including network monitoring and maintenance, can help identify potential threats before they become significant problems.
Plan ahead – Be prepared for an attack and have a solid response strategy in place and regular data backups so that an attack doesn’t take you offline.
DDoS attack case studies
In December 2016, the infamous Mirai botnet conducted the largest DDoS attack to date, with a massive botnet of a million internet-connected devices used for the attack. This attack was so significant that it even shut down parts of the internet. In the same year, a DDoS attack led to the first Australian digital census being taken offline for 40 hours.
In May 2017, attackers targeted the DNS provider Dyn using a DDoS attack with a distributed network of IoT devices to generate an astounding 1.2 terabytes of network traffic per second. This attack was able to take down major internet services, including Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, and Spotify. In May 2019, a DDoS attack targeted a gaming network and slowed down the internet across the globe due to a network fault. This attack, which was executed by an unidentified group of hackers, involved tricking gaming networks with fake traffic and sending it to gaming networks.
Invest in protection against DDoS attacks
A DDoS attack is a real and present threat to the security of a business or network, and an attack can cause major damage. The managed detection and response experts at INTELLIWORX can protect your business against DDoS attacks and malicious activity before it becomes a problem. With the security experts from INTELLIWORX, your business security is in good hands.