Distributed Denial-of-Service or DDoS attacks are rapidly becoming a major concern for businesses on a global scale.
Experts believed that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a spike in DDoS attacks, but the sheer volume has caught everyone by surprise. To make matters worse, hackers are refining their techniques and we’re now seeing new DDoS amplification techniques on a regular basis.
A DDoS attack uses a tool, such as a bot, that floods the network with signals over and over, eventually rendering the network unable to process legitimate user requests or even other parts of the network. Web services, websites, and e-commerce platforms are especially at risk because hackers can attack critical infrastructure by overwhelming the traffic network.
DDoS attacks are most often used against big corporations or financial institutions; they can also cause irreparable brand credibility issues if customers do not know why a website or service is down. For these reasons, learning how to restrict and avoid such attacks is critical to business processes and accomplishments.
The Different Types of DDoS Attacks
We have not been able to deter the DDoS epidemic to date because the techniques being used in these attacks are complex and include a number of different tactics.
There are also several types of DDoS attacks that target networks or their related frameworks in different ways. They include:
- Volumetric attacks. These are easily the most common types of DDoS attacks. The bot overloads the network’s bandwidth by sending large numbers of false requests to any open port. This ensures that valid requests can not be authorized. The two main types of volumetric attacks are UDP floods and ICMP floods. UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol and is a protocol relating to the transfer of data without controls. ICMP is an Internet Control Message Protocol, which is a protocol used by various network devices when communicating with each other.
- Application-layer attacks. This form of DDoS attack is targeted at applications that users interact with directly. This specific attack interferes with web traffic by targeting HTTP, HTTPS, DNS, or SMTP protocols. Application-layer DDoS can be very difficult to track and troubleshoot, as it mimics legitimate web traffic. They have also risen sharply in recent years.
- Protocol attacks. Protocol attacks usually target those parts of the network that are being used to validate its connections. These attacks send deliberately malformed or slow pings in order to force the network to use a lot of memory when validating these pings. This particular attack also attacks firewalls by sending huge quantities of calculatingly anomalous data.
In some cases, an attacker can use all three types of DDoS attacks at the same time in order to completely overwhelm your network and trigger a crash.
Preventing DDoS Attacks
You can avoid DDoS attacks with proper preparation and the implementation of safety and security measures. It is important to remember that a DDoS attack can happen to everybody, from the corporate giants such as Microsoft to organizations that are still growing or virtually unknown.
Although several attacks take place for political reasons, corporate credibility conflicts or simply due to trolling, even smaller companies may be targeted by cybercriminals.
There are a number of steps you can take to safeguard your network from a DDoS attack:
- Have a plan. You need a response plan to truly stay safe in today’s interconnected world. Implementing a plan means going through your system and identifying any potential security vulnerabilities, as well as establishing a transparent response from your business or corporation in the event of a cyberattack.
- Allocate roles. A defined response team should be established for your data centers and within your network management or IT teams. Make sure that everyone knows their individual responsibilities and who to contact should the situation escalate.
- Install protection tools. Ensure you have adequate protection tools in place for your networks as well as your configured applications. This should include network firewalls, device and network monitoring software, and VPNs that can mask your IP address from DDoS attackers in the first place. These tools are not perfect, but they are an excellent first line of defense.
- Keep everything up to date. Ensure that all your systems are kept up to date to ensure that any bugs are fixed and that any available security patches have been installed. The early identification of threats is key to preventing a DDoS attack from disrupting critical network infrastructures and ultimately impacting your end-users.
How to stop a DDoS attack
In order to stop a DDoS attack, follow these steps:
Identify the DDoS attack early – If you operate or manage your own servers, you have to be able to recognize when you’re under attack. Several large corporations are already making use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to identify cyberattacks earlier. The sooner you can establish and confirm that any issues with your website are sparked by a DDoS attack, the sooner you can slow down or halt the attack.
Overprovision bandwidth – It makes sense that your web server should have more bandwidth capacity available than what it needs. Having extra bandwidth available can enable you to manage any unexpected traffic increases that might be due to seasonal fluctuations in the case of advertising campaigns, special offers, or even a successful PR campaign.
Defend at the network perimeter (if you run your own web server) – There are several technological safeguards that can be put in place to partly alleviate the impact of an incident – particularly during the first few minutes – and some of them are quite simple.
- Limit the router rate to help avoid your server from being overburdened.
- Add filters to your router in order to enable it to drop packets from obvious attack origins.
- Enable aggressive timeouts for half-open connections
- Drop any malformed or spoofed packets
- Use a VPN to create an encrypted pathway to your IP address, meaning the hackers will attack the VPN server’s address and not yours
- Determine and enable lower thresholds for SYN, ICMP and UDP flood drops
Call your ISP or hosting provider – You may also contact your ISP (should a service provider you host your server), in order to notify them of the attack and to gain assistance. Keep their emergency contact numbers on hand, so that you can contact them without any delay. Depending on the severity of the threat, your ISP or hosting may have already identified or isolated the attack.
Call a DDoS mitigation specialist – In the event of a very large attack, your best chance of remaining online is to make use of a specialized vulnerability management company. These organizations have the necessary infrastructure and required technologies, including data scrubbing, which can keep you online. You may have to approach a vulnerability management company directly, or your hosting service provider may already have an agreement in place to deal with major attacks.
The best way to guarantee swift and effective reaction within your own organization or company in halting a DDoS attack is to develop a strategy that describes or explains every action of your pre-planned response should an attack be detected.
Your overall strategy to protect your website should also include the actions described above as well as the relevant contact names and numbers of any employees who need to be notified in the event of an attack. DDoS vulnerability management companies can assist you if need be by creating a virtual DDoS attack, allowing you to test and improve a rapid business response to a real attack.
An important part of your response plan to a DDoS attack that shouldn’t be ignored is how you communicate the event to your customers. DDoS attacks might last up to 24 hours, and efficient and clear communication can reduce the cost to your company when under attack.