DDoS attacks allow hackers to flood networks or servers with fake traffic. Traffic overloads the network and causes disruption to connectivity. This prevents legitimate user requests from being processed. The target company is left without services, which results in long downtime, loss of revenue, and unhappy customers.
If a business or organization knows how to protect against DDoS attack, it can help them stay ahead of hackers. These practices will help reduce the impact of DDoS attacks and speed up recovery after an attack attempt.
Defining DDoS Attacks
A DDoS attack, or distributed denial of service attack, aims to cause a network, server, or service to go down by flooding it with fake traffic. A sudden boost in connections requests, packets, and messages overwhelms the target’s infrastructure, causing it to slow down or crash.
DDoS attacks can be used by hackers to blackmail businesses into paying ransoms (similar to ransomware), but there are more common reasons behind DDoS.
- Communications or services can be disrupted
- Brand damage.
- You can gain a competitive advantage even if the website of a competitor is down.
- Distract the incident response group.
DDoS attacks pose a threat to all businesses, large and small, as well as Fortune 500 companies and e-retailers. DDoS hackers are most commonly targeting:
- Online retailers
- Service providers in IT.
- Companies in financial and fintech.
- Government entities.
- Online gambling and casinos
To cause a DDoS, attackers typically use a botnet. Botnets are a network of malware-infected computers and mobile devices that are controlled by the attacker. These “zombie devices” are used by hackers to send excessive requests to a server or target website.
Once enough requests are received by the botnet, online services (emails and websites, web apps, etc. Either they stop working or they fail. These are the average lengths for a DDoS attack, according to Radware.
- 33% of respondents keep services unavailable for more than an hour.
- 60% lasts less than one full day
- 15% for one month.
A DDoS attack does not usually result in a data leak or data breach. However, it can cause financial and time losses to get services online again. Failing to stop DDoS attacks can lead to lost business, abandoned shopping carts, and reputational damage.
Types of DDoS Attacks
All DDoS attacks are designed to overwhelm systems with too much activity. Hackers have other strategies to cause a distributed disruption of service.
The three major types of attack are:
- Application-layer attacks
- Protocol attacks
- Volumetric attacks
Although the three methods are different, a skilled hacker could use all three to overwhelm one target.
An application-layer attack is aimed at a particular app and does not affect the entire network. Hackers generate a lot of HTTP requests, which exhausts the ability of the target server to respond.
Cybersecurity experts measure app-layer attacks per request. These attacks are common targets include:
- Apps for the web
- Internet-connected apps
- Cloud services
This type of DDoS attack is difficult to stop because security teams are often unable to differentiate legitimate from malicious HTTP requests. These attacks are less resource-intensive than other DDoS strategies and hackers may only use one device to launch an attack on an application layer.
A layer 7 attack is another common name for an app-level DDoS.
Protocol DDoS attacks exploit weaknesses in procedures and protocols that regulate internet communications. They target the whole network and not just an app.
These are the two most popular types of protocol-based DDoS attempts.
- Syn floods: This attack exploits TCP handshake procedures. A hacker sends TCP requests to the target with fake IP addresses. The attacker sends TCP requests with fake IP addresses to the target. After the attacker has replied, the target system waits for the sender’s confirmation. The server crashes as the attacker doesn’t send the required response.
- Smurf DNS: A hacker uses malware in order to create a network packet that is attached to an IP address that is not there. The package includes an ICMP ping message asking the network for a response. The attacker sends the replies back to the network IP address, creating a loop that eventually destroys the system.
Cybersecurity specialists measure protocol attempts at packets per second (PPS) or bits per second (BPS). Protocol DDoS attackers are so common because they can bypass poorly configured firewalls.
Volume-based DDoS attacks consume the bandwidth of a target and falsely request data, creating network congestion. Traffic from the attacker prevents legit users from accessing certain services and blocks the regular flow of traffic.
These are the most popular types of volumetric DDoS attacks:
- UDP flooding: These allow an attacker to flood ports on target hosts with IP packets containing stateless UDP protocols.
- DNS amplification or DNS reflection: This attack transfers large amounts of DNS requests to the target IP address.
- ICMP Flood: This tactic takes advantage of ICMP false errors requests to overwhelm the network’s bandwidth.
Botnets are the foundation of all volumetric attempts. Hackers deploy malware-infected devices in large numbers to generate traffic spikes and exhaust all available bandwidth. Volumetric attacks are the most popular type of DDoS.
Defending Your Website Against a DDoS Attack
While it is impossible to stop hackers from trying to cause DDoS attacks, proactive planning and proactive measures can reduce the potential impact and risk of such attempts.
Create DDoS protection response plans.
An incident response plan should be developed by your security team. This will ensure that members of your staff respond quickly and effectively to DDoS attacks. The plan should include:
- Step-by-step instructions for how to respond to a DDoS attack
- How to keep your business running smoothly
- Key stakeholders and staff who can be reached at the top
- Escalation protocols
- Responsibilities for the team
Enforce high network security levels.
Network security is essential to stop any DDoS attack attempts. An attack can only have an effect if hackers have enough time to accumulate requests. It is crucial to be able to recognize a DDoS attack early to control the blast radius.
To ensure DDoS protection, you can rely upon the following types of network security :
- Firewalls and intrusion detection systems that act as traffic-scanning walls between networks
- Anti-virus and anti-malware software that detects, removes, and blocks viruses and malware
- Endpoint security, a security solution that protects endpoints (desktops and mobile devices) and that does not allow malicious activity to gain access
- Web security tools that block suspicious traffic and remove web-based threats
- Tools to prevent spoofing, checking that traffic has an origin address that is consistent with the source addresses
- Segmentation that separates systems into subnets using unique protocols and security controls.
High levels of network infrastructure security are required to protect against DDoS attempts. You can prepare your hardware for traffic spikes by securing devices (routers, load balancers, and DNS systems).
Create server redundancy.
Hackers can’t attack all servers simultaneously if they depend on several distributed servers. An attacker can launch a successful DDoS attack on one hosting device but other servers are not affected and continue to receive traffic until the targeted system comes back online.
To ensure that you don’t have any bottlenecks or single points for failure, it is important to host servers at colocation facilities and data centers. A content delivery system is also possible. DDoS attempts involve overloading servers. A CDN can distribute the load equally among multiple distributed servers.
Identify the warning signs.
Your security team should be able to quickly identify the characteristics of DDoS attacks and take immediate action to mitigate the damage.
These are the most common indicators:
- Poor connectivity
- Slow performance
- Demand is high for one page or an endpoint.
- You may receive unusual traffic from one or a few IP addresses.
- Traffic spikes from users sharing a similar profile (system model and geolocation, web browser version, etc. ).
Not all attacks are associated with high traffic. An event that is of low volume and short duration is often overlooked as an unrelated event. These attacks could be used as a diversion or test for a more serious breach (e.g. ransomware). It is just as important to detect a low-volume attempt as it is to identify a full-blown one.
You might consider organizing a security awareness program to educate the entire staff about the warning signs of attacks. This way, warning signs are not left to chance and security personnel can pick them up immediately.
Constantly monitor network traffic.
To detect activity, it is a great idea to use continuous monitoring. The following are the benefits of CM:
- You can detect attempts in real-time before they take full swing.
- Team members can develop a strong sense for typical activity and traffic patterns. The team can identify unusual activities more easily once they have a better understanding of everyday operations.
- Monitoring is available around the clock to detect signs of attacks that occur outside of normal business hours and weekends.
Depending on the arrangement, the CM Tool can either get in touch with admins to solve a problem or go by instructions from a script.
Regulate network broadcasting.
To increase the impact, hackers behind an attempt will most likely send requests to all devices on your network. This tactic can be countered by your security team by restricting broadcasting between devices.
Broadcast forwarding can be stopped or turned off if it is possible to disrupt high-volume attempts. You can instruct employees to disable echo or chargen when possible.
Make use of the powers of the cloud.
Cloud-based mitigation is not as powerful as on-prem software and hardware. Cloud-based protection is capable of scaling up and handling even large volumes of attacks with ease.
- Cloud providers provide comprehensive cybersecurity with top firewalls, threat monitoring software, and more.
- The bandwidth of the public cloud is greater than that of any private network.
- Data centers offer high redundancy and copies of data, equipment, and systems.
Two options are usually available to a business when it comes to cloud-based protection.
- Cloud mitigation on-demand: These services are activated after an in-house team or provider detects a threat. To keep services online, the provider will divert all traffic to the cloud resources if you are affected by an attempt.
- Cloud protection: These services route traffic through a cloud-scrubbing center, at a minimal latency. This is the best option for mission-critical applications that can’t afford downtime.
Cloud-based protection may not be necessary if your team is competent. To get the same results as always-on or on-demand protection, you can create a hybrid environment or multi-cloud environment.
A DDoS attack is a serious thing, and such cases are increasing in frequency. Experts predict that the average annual attack will rise to 15.4 million by 2023. This number suggests that almost every business will be affected by an attack at some point. Therefore, it is important to prepare for such an attempt.