What Is a DDoS Attack? How Can You Protect Against Them?

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If you’re a business owner or information technology (IT) manager, you constantly worry about cyber attacks if your company does business on the internet. According to a study at the University of Maryland, a hacker attack occurs every 43 seconds, and 43% of these attacks are against small businesses. One of the most prevalent attacks is the DDoS attack. Further, it’s expected that in 2020 the cost of data breaches will exceed $150 million.

One of the best weapons against cyber attacks is information. You need to know the various types of attacks. It’s also beneficial to understand the steps that you must take to protect your company against these attacks.

What Is a DDoS Attack?

distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a cyber hack that can bring down your company’s website and block your customers from using it. Your server or network can only handle so much traffic to your website, and a DDoS attack takes advantage of this by overwhelming it with frivolous traffic. 

For example, your the owner of a small woman’s dress store. On Tuesday afternoon at the same time, 150 men come into the store. They start holding up garments, hogging the mirrors, unfolding t-shirts, and asking your staff useless questions. There are now so many people in your store that real customers can’t get in. This is the principle and goal of a DDoS attack. 

So, in a cyber attack, where do the men come from?

Botnets

Botnets are used to flood your system and keep your clients from visiting your website. Botnets are a network of hacked computers or bots, and the hacker can control these remotely. You might allow bots onto your network through suspect emails and other hacker activity. You don’t realize that they’re there so they begin to grow and create a network until the cybercriminal is ready to strike. 

Types of DDoS Attacks

Unfortunately, there is more than one type of DDoS attack. These attacks are broken into three main categories:

  • Protocol attacks: This attack goes after any vulnerabilities in a server’s resources
  • Volume-based attacks: The network’s bandwidth becomes overwhelmed when massive amounts of traffic arrive.
  • Application attacks: Focused on a company’s specific app, this is the most sophisticated of the DDoS attacks.  

There are a variety of attacks in each of these categories. Here are some examples of DDoS attacks.

Volumetric Attacks

In the volumetric attack, your company’s network or server becomes flooded with traffic that at a casual glance appears to be legitimate. This is the most common type of DDoS attack.

TCP Connection Attacks

The TCP connection creates a  three-way handshake between the visitor, server, and network for safety. In this attack, the three-way handshake never gets completed and the connection remains open. The open connection can’t be used by a real customer.

Of course, you have more than one connection location. The attack uses bots to take connect to all the open ports and then stall them. Eventually, your server becomes overwhelmed and shuts down. 

Fragmentation Attacks 

With a fragmentation attack, the datagram fragmentation process is corrupted. It’s one of the more common DDoS attacks. During the datagram fragmentation process, the IP datagrams break down into smaller packets, transfer across the network, and rebuild at the destination. 

During an attack, the smaller packets are counterfeit and don’t rebuild at the destination. Eventually, these fake packets overwhelm the server and shut it down. 

Teardrop Attack

The teardrop attack is a fragmentation attack, where the hackers introduce malware that prevents the real packets from rebuilding. This also leads to a server collapse. 

Application Layer Attacks 

You might also hear this referred to as a Layer 7 attack. This is a slow and steady attack, and most IT security programs don’t realize that the traffic on a specific application isn’t legitimate until the system is already overwhelmed. The attack targets the application at the layer where it responds to HTTP requests and brings up webpages.

In many cases, the hacker will run other DDoS attacks in conjunction with this one for maximum damage. The application layer attack is very effective because it takes so long to realize there’s an issue and it’s relatively inexpensive for hackers to carry out. 

Ways to Protect Your Company From DDoS Attacks

What Is a DDoS Attack? How Can You Protect Against Them?

You know it’s essential that your clients be able to reach your website at any time. A DDoS attack can take your website and servers down for hours and days. There are some ways that you can protect your company from this type of attack. Here are some things to consider. 

Act Quickly

The more quickly you recognize a DDoS attack and begin to stop it the more successful you’ll be at stopping it before it brings your servers down. You can use anti-DDoS services to easily recognize the difference between a legitimate and illegitimate spike in visitors to your website. 

Once you realize you have a DDoS attack in progress, contact your ISP provider to see if they can reroute your traffic and avoid a server shutdown. The ISP can use Black Hole Routing to send all the requests to a null void. On the downside, it sends all of your traffic to the black hole.

Use Firewalls and Routers

Firewalls and routers are your first line of defense. You need to keep the software up to date and check routinely to ensure that they’re configured correctly to recognize illegitimate requests. 

Artificial Intelligence

While still a new and exciting concept, artificial intelligence can move your incoming traffic into the cloud, analyze the credibility of the traffic, and shut down any possible DDoS attacks. AI could defend against already know attacks. It should also begin to predict and recognize future, first-time attacks. 

Website Maintenance 

You need to routinely maintain your company’s website. It’s a good idea to check your firewalls and routers during this maintenance to ensure it’s as secure as possible.

Conclusion

No one wants to be a victim of a cyber attack. Now that you know what a DDoS attack is and a few of its variants, you’ll be better able to find a solution if it happens to your company. 

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