In the past, DDoS attacks were only considered a minor nuisance. They were relatively easy to mitigate—a server restart or network re-route would typically do the trick. But over the years, DDoS attacks have evolved into sophisticated cybersecurity threats capable of completely shutting down business operations.
DDoS attacks are a big deal due to their increasing frequency, target range, and complexity. According to Netscout’s Threat Intelligence Report, DDoS attack frequency increased by 20 percent between 2019 and 2020. The over 10 million DDoS incidents recorded in 2020 lead to an average of about 800,000 attacks per month. The report also shows the relatively wide attack surface for DDoS, ranging from e-commerce and healthcare to streaming platforms.
What is a DDoS attack?
A DoS (denial of service) attack occurs when malicious activities prevent legitimate users from accessing a network, data, software, or hardware resources. In a typical DoS attack, the threat actor floods a server or a network with overwhelming traffic or service requests until it becomes irresponsive or crashes. With DDoS (distributed denial of service), the attacker uses multiple devices or virtual agents to generate malicious traffic. Usually, these attack vectors are compromised workstations or software applications interconnected into a botnet (a group of devices the attacker can control and command remotely).
DDoS attackers count on bypassing certain cybersecurity defenses or exploiting network or software vulnerabilities. Depending on the target and tactic, a DDoS attack can take anywhere from minutes to hours to take full effect. But stopping an active attack and recovering from it can take days or even weeks.
The recent Commission Kings brands attack is an excellent example of a classic DDoS attack. On October 16, 2020, all Commission Kings’ websites, including BetOnline and Wild Casino, went offline for 72 hours following a severe DDoS attack. The global sports betting network and its affiliate programs and websites lost three business days, including an NFL Sunday.
Types of DDoS attacks
A DDoS attack can take many different approaches by exploiting various vectors and security weaknesses. But generally, all DDoS attacks fit in one of these three categories:
These are the most common DDoS attacks. Their goal is to overwhelm the target website or network’s bandwidth with high-volume traffic measured in bits per second (bps). Such attacks include spoofed-packet floods such as ICMP and UDP floods.
This type of attack consumes the network’s computing power by overloading Layers 3 and 4 protocol communications with malicious connections. Protocol attacks include Smurf DDoS, SYN floods, and Ping of Death. The attack’s magnitude is measured in packets per second (PPS).
Application layer attacks
These attacks target specific vulnerabilities within certain software applications. They include Low-and-Slow, Large-Payload-Post, zero-day DDoS, and slow loris attacks whose magnitudes are measuring in requests per second (RPS).
Best practices to prevent DDoS attacks
Most DDoS attacks are part of a hybrid attack sequence, while some only aim to sabotage a business’s operations. But whatever its goal, a DDoS attack ends up causing the victim heavy financial losses from downtime and recovery, data losses, and other implications. For these reasons, it’s crucial to include DDoS prevention in your cybersecurity framework. Here are the most effective measures you can take to protect your business against DDoS attacks:
- Continuously monitor network traffic and behavior for unusual activities.
- Develop a solid DDoS response plan.
- Invest in all-around network security.
- Install anti-DDoS tools.
- Scale up your network and server capacities.
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