The uprising connection between devices, services, and networks leads to increased risks of cybersecurity, and online privacy and DDoS is one of them.
Although it’s called “attack”, it’s far from being so complex that fails to be understood. Some knowledge about how DDoS attack works and handy tips to avoid it will save you from losses on cybersecurity and economy.
What is a DDoS Attack?
Prior to the introduction of the DDoS attack, it’s better to start from DoS that is short for Denial of Service. Based on Wikipedia, it refers to a cyber-attack in which the hacker seeks to make ONE machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to the Internet. Denial of service is typically accomplished by flooding the targeted machine or resource with superfluous requests to overload systems and prevent some or all legitimate requests from being fulfilled.
When the ONE machine or network becomes multiple ones, here comes DDoS. Distributed denial-of-service attacks or DDoS attacks are malicious attempts to disrupt normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of unwanted Internet traffic. Simply put, hackers have attempted to make a website or device unavailable by flooding or crashing the website with too much traffic so that normal traffic fails to enter. DDoS attacks are one of the most powerful weapons on the Internet. They are like a traffic jam preventing the regular traffic from getting to its destination.
What are the Targets of DDoS Attacks?
The main goal of DDoS attacks is to disable website availability, which means to slow down the websites’ response to legitimate requests or even disable entire access. So, the DDoS attacks target websites and online services. The traffic can range from daily incoming messages to official news websites, and present a major challenge to making sure people can publish and access important information.
In general, DDoS attack targets include the following:
√ Internet shopping sites
√ Online casinos
√ Any business or organization that depends on providing online services.
What are General Types of DDoS Attacks?
UDP or User Datagram Protocol floods attack random ports on a remote server with requests called UDP packets. The host checks the ports for the appropriate applications. When you see the “destination unreachable” packet, your service is very likely to be overwhelmed by flood traffic.
ICMP (ping) Flood
ICMP or Internet Control Message Protocol flood sends ICMP echo request packets (pings) to a host. Pings are common requests used to boost the connectivity of two servers. However, in a ping flood, an attacker uses an extensive series of pings to exhaust the incoming and outgoing bandwidth of the targeted server.
Known as a zombie army, an HTTP flood is a Layer 7 application attack that uses botnets. In this type of attack, standard GET and POST requests flood a web server or application. The server is inundated with requests and may shut down. These attacks can be particularly difficult to detect because they appear as perfectly valid traffic.
The Slowloris attack sends small portions of an HTTP request to a server. These portions are sent in timed intervals, so the request does not time out, and the server waits for it to be completed. These unfinished requests exhaust bandwidth and affect the server’s ability to handle legitimate requests.
In an SYN flood attack, the attacker sends seemingly normal SYN requests to a server, which response with an SYN-ACK (synchronized-acknowledgment) request. Typically, a client then sends back an ACK request, and a connection is made. In an SYN flood attack, the attacker does not respond with a final ACK. The server is left with a large number of unfinished SYN-ACK requests that burden the system.
Ping of Death
In a Ping of Death attack, the attacker tries to crash or freeze a server by sending a normal ping request that is either fragmented or oversized. When a larger ping is sent, the targeted server will fragment the file. Later, when the server formulates a response, the reassembly of this larger file can cause a buffer overload and crash.
How do DDoS Attacks Work?
Step#1. The DDoS attacks will test the limits of a web server, network, and application resources by sending spikes of fake traffic.
Step#2. The web server, network, and application will become malicious. Then these websites will spread malware like zombies (aka bots). The attacker has remote control over the group of bots, which is called a botnet. Any device may be used as a botnet only if the user has no idea. They are usually controlled or infected by malware or phishing email.
Step#3. Once a botnet has been established, the attacker is able to direct the machines by sending updated instructions to each bot via a method of remote control.
Step#4. When the IP address of a victim is targeted by the botnet, each bot will respond by sending requests to the target, potentially causing the targeted server or network to overflow capacity, resulting in a denial-of-service to normal traffic. Because each bot is a legitimate Internet device, it will be hard to distinguish the attack traffic from normal traffic.
Handy Tips on How to Avoid DDoS Attacks?
Use a Firewall
Activate a website application firewall protection From DDoS attacks can be efficient. Firewalls keep the malicious traffic off your website. Website Application Firewalls are specific application firewalls for websites that go beyond the metadata of the packets transferred at the network level.
Keep an Eye on Traffic
It is vital to monitor your website traffic to be aware of traffic peaks and DDoS attacks. As we explained before, DDoS happens when there is a huge amount of traffic to the server. Be aware that a dramatic increase of traffic is a red flag for DDoS attacks.
Use a VPN to Stop being Tracked by Hackers
Here’s the thing – for some DDoS attackers, they need to locate your network first. To do that, they need your IP address. A VPN is designed for keeping your privacy and security. One of a VPN’s primary functions is to mask your IP address. Not all VPNs offer DDoS protection, though. And even with those that do, you need to be sure you’re really getting what you pay for.
Take Quick Action
The earlier a DDoS attack in progress is identified, the more readily the harm can be contained. If you find your company is under attack, you should notify your ISP provider as soon as possible to determine if your traffic can be re-routed. Having a backup ISP is also a good idea. Also, consider services that disperse the massive DDoS traffic among a network of servers rendering the attack ineffective.
AI works great in developing new systems. The systems can quickly route Internet traffic to the cloud and prevent malicious web traffic before it reaches your devices. Such AI programs could identify and defend against known DDoS indicative patterns. Plus, the self-learning capabilities of AI would help predict and identify future DDoS patterns.
It’s not difficult to get a DDoS attack on the Internet and it’s equivalently not difficult to avoid it as long as instant measures are made. Using a VPN to avoid DDoS attacks may not be the complete solution but it’s the simplest.