What Are DDoS Attacks and How to Protect Yourself From Them


In today’s digital world, where everyone is connected through the digital landscape, there is an ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks. One of the most damaging cyberattacks is the DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack.

But what exactly is a DDoS attack, how can it affect your small business, and more importantly, what can you do to protect yourself and your business from DDoS attacks?

What Is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS attacks involve flooding a target system, network, or website with an overwhelming volume of traffic, in most cases rendering it inaccessible to users and in many cases even completely overwhelming the target’s resources causing it to crash.

Attackers typically use a network of compromised computers, known as a botnet, to orchestrate their DDoS attack, making the attack much more challenging to deal with as it is coming from several infected sources.

DDoS attacks are known to cause major disruptions to services, and can even cause both financial and reputational damage to the company at the receiving end of a DDoS attack.

Types of DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks come in various forms, each targeting their victims in different ways. The most common forms of DDoS attacks are.

Volumetric Attacks

Volumetric attacks tend to be what most people believe to be or are referring to when they think of DDoS attacks. These attacks aim to overwhelm a server with huge amounts of traffic to use up all your site’s bandwidth, eventually causing it to crash.

Protocol Attacks

In a protocol DDoS attack, the attacker targets the protocols used for communication between different devices or systems. This could involve exploiting flaws in the way certain protocols handle and process data, leading to resource exhaustion, system instability, or service disruption.

Common protocols that could be targeted in a protocol DDoS attack include Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and Domain Name System (DNS).

Application Layer Attacks

Application layer attacks target the highest layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model, which is the application layer. These attacks focus on exploiting vulnerabilities in the software and applications that directly interact with users. The goal of application layer attacks is often to disrupt the availability, integrity, or performance of an application.

Common types of application layer attacks include HTTP/HTTPS floods, SQL Injection (SQLi), Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) at the application layer, brute force attacks, zero-day exploits, and session hijacking/session fixation.

Mitigating application layer attacks often involves implementing security best practices, such as input validation, secure coding practices, regularly updating and patching software, and deploying web application firewalls (WAFs).

DNS Amplification Attacks

DNS amplification attacks are a type of DDoS attack that exploits the characteristics of the DNS protocol to overwhelm a target with a large volume of traffic. In a DNS amplification attack, the attacker leverages open DNS resolvers to amplify the traffic directed at the victim.

DNS amplification attacks are effective because they exploit the difference in size between the DNS query and response packets. By using open DNS resolvers and amplifying the traffic, attackers can achieve a high level of impact with a relatively small amount of malicious traffic.

Mitigating DNS amplification attacks involves implementing various security measures, including:

  • DNS Server Configuration
  • Rate Limiting
  • Filtering Spoofed Traffic
  • Traffic Monitoring and Analysis
  • Use of DNSSEC:

How Can a DDoS Affect Your Business

DDoS attacks can be extremely detrimental to businesses. Depending on the type of attack, a DDoS attack can render a company, business, or service inaccessible. If a potential customer or user cannot access your business or application, they will go elsewhere. 

With such attacks, businesses can be damaged due to a loss of reputation, and financial repercussions, and important information can be lost to hackers. Some DDoS attacks may be obvious when they happen, whereas others can act as a distraction while attackers steal confidential or personal information and data from your business.

How to Protect Yourself From DDoS Attacks

While DDoS attacks can bring your servers to their knees, often causing financial damage and in many cases crippling your workforce, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

Implement DDoS Protection

If you run an online business, your hosting provider should be able to offer you advanced DDoS protection, reducing the chances of being attacked.

In some cases, the best web hosting companies will even offer advanced DDoS protection for free, as part of their service.

Use a CDN

Most CDN services also come with a variety of security features and tools designed to help protect you from hackers and viruses.

A CDN can help filter out any malicious requests, blocking DDoS attacks from ever reaching your service and helping you to maintain better uptimes. Even if a malicious attack did manage to get through, your CDN should be able to balance out the traffic, stopping it from quickly becoming overwhelmed, slowing down or even crashing.

How to Know if You’re Being Targetted by a DDoS Attack

What’s the Difference Between a DDoS and DoS Attack?

A DoS attack uses a single machine to flood a server with traffic, whereas a DDoS will use a network of multiple computers to flood your server, making it much harder to handle.

Are DDoS Attacks Still a Threat?

Yes, even though there is plenty of protection out there, DDoS attacks are still on the rise, making them one of the most dangerous cyber security threats around today.

Are DDoS Attacks Illegal?

DDoS attacks are illegal in most countries, and anyone found guilty of performing a DDoS could be faced with criminal charges, including imprisonment.

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