Imagine you’re smack in the middle of a huge promotional sale on your online shop- and all of a sudden you get flooded with user complaints stating that the website is down. One of the more prevalent causes of an outage like this is a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Just like one that hit Amazon Web Services in February of 2020.
The attack saw as much as 2.3 terabits (2,300,000 megabits) per second of incoming traffic at its highest. Average websites and servers are designed for traffic of 50,000-100,000 megabits per month. A DDoS attack can completely shut down your service for long periods of time, which is truly devastating for most businesses.
What are the common types of DDoS attacks? Can they be prevented?
The three most common forms of DDoS attacks include protocol attacks, volumetric attacks, and application layer attacks. DDoS attacks are difficult to prevent, but DDoS defense systems, rate limiting, real-time packet analysis, and web application firewalls can provide some protection.
In this article, we’ll cover what you should know about DDoS attacks, what protocol attacks, volumetric attacks, and application layer attacks are, who should be concerned about DDoS attacks, the impact that they can have, how to protect your business from an attack, and what to do if you experience a DDoS attack. Let’s take a closer look:
What You Should Know About DDoS Attacks
Different Types of DDoS
DDoS attacks, or Distributed Denial of Service attacks, are when bad actors overwhelm a network or online service with a large amount of traffic from multiple sources.
The most important thing to know about them is they are relatively easy to pull off and inexpensive to run (CoxBlue stated they can be bought on the black market for as little as $150), so they’re on the short list of the most concerning types of attacks for many cybersecurity professionals.
But not all DDoS attacks are the same in method of attack or sophistication. Protocol attacks, volumetric attacks, and application layer attacks are three of the most common types of DDoS attacks – and it’s important to know the differences.
These attacks focus on the part of a network that verifies incoming connections. Naturally there is already a bit of a bottleneck here, by design. Which is exactly what an attacker aims to exploit.
During a DDoS style cyberattack, hackers will intentionally flood this process with slow pings or partial packets. While your network struggles to verify just one of these broken or incomplete connections, more pile up behind it. Thus, your network or website grinds to a halt.
In this type of DDoS attack, cybercriminals swamp your server’s open ports with fake data requests. Again, there is already a bit of a bottleneck in the system at this point – just what the attacker wants.
As your network fights to verify and untangle the mess of fake data requests, it has no other resources available to verify any other requests that come through. This crashes your whole website (or network) until the attack is over.
Application Layer Attacks
Sometimes called Layer 7 attacks, these are focused on the application layer of your website. This layer interfaces between human input and the technical back end of your site. Some of the protocols in this layer are HTTPS and DNS, which are usually the focus of these types of attacks.
The attacker will initiate a flood of seemingly legitimate HTTPS or DNS requests. Ideally, for them, those requests will cause your network (or website) to lag or shut down entirely. This is a particularly difficult DDoS attack to detect because it mimics real network traffic so closely.
Who Should Be Concerned About DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks are brutal to all businesses, from small to enterprise sized. Even large companies struggle to survive repeated DDoS attacks, let alone Mom & Pop shops.
No matter your business size or industry, whether you’re in healthcare or local government, DDoS attacks are a massive cybersecurity concern that you will want to prepare for and prevent.
The Impact of a DDoS Attack
An interruption of services can be devastating to a young business still building their reputation. Clients not being able to access your services due to a DDoS related outage can lose you revenue, data, productivity, and customers.
Most DDoS attacks occur to obscure or distract from the theft of data through other avenues. With data theft or compromise come penalties and fines from different compliance agencies (depending on your industry).
Additionally, if your company has been infected, your PCs can become part of a botnet or zombie computer DDoS attack. There may be liability or business interruption if your IP address gets blacklisted. Preventing DDoS is not just focusing on combating inbound attacks, but unknowing outbound participation in a DDoS attack as well.
DDoS Protection, Defense, & Mitigation
The good news is that there are a mixture of software tools, hardware architecture, and mitigation steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a DDoS attack as well as reducing the damage one does.
If you take these tips to heart, you can better protect your business – and your customer’s data!
Products To Protect Your Business
One of the best things you can do to protect your business from DDoS attacks is invest in cybersecurity professionals to help you mitigate the risks. Whether you have an internal department or you outsource your needs to a company like CloudNexus IT, cybersecurity professionals have the training and experience needed.
Tips To Defend Your Business
Some of the same practices that can prevent other types of attacks can help mitigate the risk of DDoS attacks – clear BYOD (bring your own device) guidelines, strict password policies, a zero-trust approach, etc.
OneLogin has a great article that goes in-depth into how you can prevent a DDoS attack, which includes real-time packet analysis, DDoS defense systems (DDS), web application firewalls (WAF), and rate limiting.
The basic premise of each of these methods is to analyze and filter the typical requests as they come in. This enables you to impose rules and limits that are triggered if something looks off – before a full-blown DDoS attack is underway.
How To Know If You Are Experiencing A DDoS Attack
If something just feels ‘off’ with your web application or website, it could be a DDoS attack. You might experience a large volume of traffic all at once from a small number of IP addresses, a server repeatedly crashing, or your website not being able to do what it normally does – pages loading slowly, timing out, etc.
Now, if there’s an inexplicable uptick in your outbound traffic, there may be a chance that one or more of your computers have been infected with malware that is using them to carry out a DDoS attack on someone else.
You need to verify with a cyber security professional (internal or external) that it is in fact an attack. If it truly is, you need to work with them to work quickly to stop it.
Mitigating the Damage of a DDoS Attack
If your business has experienced a DDoS attack – don’t panic. Just move quickly. One of the fastest ways you can mitigate the risk of an attack is to reach out to your internet service provider (ISP), who might be able to step in and reroute traffic to minimize the amount of damage done.
Besides that, you’ll want to lean on a cybersecurity professional to help stop the attack (if it’s still ongoing). They can block nefarious IPs, distribute the attack over multiple servers that can withstand the increased traffic, and otherwise block malicious traffic before it completely shuts down your server.
What To Do After A DDoS Attack
If the attack has already occurred, it’s time to learn as much from it as you can so you can prevent another attack in the future. Analyze which assets were attacked, what kind of DDoS attack it was, how long it lasted, the depth of the attack, which services were interrupted, if you need to let users/customers know, etc.
After an attack, you’ll likely be picking up the pieces for a while, so it may be in your best interest to bring in outside cybersecurity professionals to do the analysis – they may identify things that your internal team wouldn’t be able to due to the increased demand on their time fixing things after an attack.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Let CloudNexus Share the Burden
DDoS attacks are becoming more and more common as time goes on, and less expensive to pull off. While your internal team can certainly help mitigate risks, it’s always a good idea to have an outside source audit or strengthen your defenses. Contact us to get started.
Considering a Corero survey found that DDoS attacks can cost enterprise organizations $50,000 in lost revenue, it’s money well spent.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.