Jun 16, 2024

What is a DDoS Attack? Understanding Threats & Prevention Strategies

Jan 2, 2024

What is a DDoS Attack?

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are on the rise, with industry giants Google, Amazon, and Cloudflare reporting the largest-ever DDoS attack in October. After noting that the attack began in August, Google also stated that this DDoS attack was 7.5 times larger than the previous record-holding attack.

DDoS attacks are malicious attempts to disrupt regular online traffic; flooding targeted servers with traffic to prevent normal users from accessing online services and sites. If your business is not protected from potential DDoS attacks, hackers can weasel their way in to drop legitimate traffic, prevent transactions and revenue, and damage your reputation.

Gain a better understanding of these growing threats, how they work, and how to prevent them with Blade Technologies.


How Do DDoS Attacks Work?

To execute a DDoS attack, hackers use individual devices (bots) or a network of internet-connected devices (botnets) to send an overwhelming number of requests to the target system, leading to a traffic overload. Bots and botnets are often infected with malware and controlled remotely without the owners’ knowledge. With an established botnet, attackers can send remote instructions to each bot.

Each bot in the botnet sends requests to the targeted IP address, flooding the server or network and creating a denial-of-service to normal traffic. To make it even more complex, separating the attack traffic from normal traffic can be complicated, as each bot is a legitimate Internet device.

DDoS attacks can target any organization or service online but are commonly directed at high-profile entities like banks, news websites, and government organizations. The motivations behind these attacks vary, including extortion, political activism, or simply to showcase a hacker’s skills.


Types of DDoS Attacks

Every connection on the Internet is made up of seven different layers, a framework known as the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. Before data is sent between the layers, each layer must perform a specific task. Different types of DDoS attacks exploit different layers of the OIS model and require different prevention and response tactics. DDoS attacks can be categorized into several types:


Volumetric Attacks

The most common type of attack, volumetric attacks, aim to saturate the bandwidth of the targeted site. Domain name system (DNS) amplification is a typical example of this attack, in which the attacker spoofs your IP address and sends a request to a DNS server to send a large amount of malicious traffic to your site.

Protocol Attacks

Unlike amplification tactics, protocol attacks (or state-exhaustion attacks) focus on exploiting server resources or intermediate communication equipment like firewalls and load balancers. These attacks exploit vulnerabilities in layer 3 (the network layer, where the physical data path is decided) and layer 4 (the transport layer, where data is transmitted using TCP and UDP protocols), making accessing the target server or site impossible.

Application Layer Attacks

Application layer attacks are more sophisticated, targeting specific aspects of an application or service to disrupt its functionality. These attacks are sometimes called layer 7 DDoS attacks because they target the application layer of the OSI model, where applications can access network services. Layer 7 attacks are significantly more difficult to defend against because of the blurred line between malicious and legitimate traffic.


How Can DDoS Attacks Impact Your Business?

While it may seem obvious, the immediate consequence of a DDoS attack is service disruption. This can manifest as slow website performance, inability to access online services, or complete website downtime. For businesses, especially those reliant on online transactions or services, this can cause significant financial loss.

However, the immediate disruption is only the beginning. DDoS attacks can cause lasting damage to your brand’s reputation, as customers may perceive your company as unreliable or insecure after the breach. Additionally, if customer data is compromised during the attack, you may face legal challenges and hefty fines, especially under regulations like the GDPR.

Finally, you can’t forget the financial costs that come after the attack. The cost of mitigating the attack and restoring services can be substantial, particularly for smaller businesses with limited resources. You may also see a rise in insurance premiums and cybersecurity costs as you invest more heavily in preventing future attacks. This makes it vital to consult a cybersecurity expert like Blade Technologies to ensure your security measures are robust enough to prevent DDoS attacks before they occur.


How Can You Prevent DDoS Attacks?

The first step in defending against DDoS attacks is building a resilient IT infrastructure. This involves designing a network with redundancy and the ability to absorb or reroute excess traffic. Utilizing cloud-based services like those Blade offers can also offer scalability to handle traffic surges. Lastly, your company should consider diversifying the paths for network traffic instead of relying on a single point of access, regularly stress testing the network to simulate DDoS conditions and identify vulnerabilities.

For the best protection possible, you may want to explore the possibility of a cybersecurity partnership. With managed cybersecurity services, companies like Blade Technologies constantly monitor your networks to identify and respond to potential threats in real time. You can also implement a set of security best practices to mitigate DDoS risks. This includes:

  1. Firewalls and Anti-DDoS Software: Deploying advanced firewall configurations and specialized anti-DDoS software can detect and filter out malicious traffic, minimizing the risk of a large-scale DDoS attack.
  2. Regular Security Audits: Frequently conduct security audits to ensure that all protective measures are functioning correctly and update them as necessary to reduce the vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
  3. Capacity Planning: Ensure you have sufficient bandwidth to handle unexpected spikes in traffic that could indicate a DDoS attack.
  4. Employee Training: Train your team to identify suspicious activities and how to follow proper security protocols to bolster your defense strategy.
  5. Response Plan: Have a well-defined response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a DDoS attack, including how to quickly assess the situation, who to communicate with (both internally and externally), and how to mitigate the impact.


How Should You Respond to a DDoS Attack?

The moment you notice an unusual pattern or spike in traffic that may indicate an attack, your team must quickly take the necessary actions to minimize the impact. Implementing an intrusion detection system (IDS) and a network monitoring solution can be highly effective in early identification.

Once a DDoS attack is detected, the following steps should be taken immediately to mitigate its impact:

  1. Traffic Redirection and Filtering: Utilize tools and techniques to redirect traffic away from critical components or to filter out malicious traffic. This can be done manually, through automated systems, or by a trusted third-party cybersecurity partner.
  2. Rate Limiting: Implement rate limiting to control the traffic to a manageable level and restore access to your online services.
  3. ISP and DDoS Mitigation Services: Promptly communicate with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and any third-party cybersecurity firms you work with. They can provide additional resources and strategies to help deflect and absorb malicious traffic.

After the attack subsides, it’s important to conduct a thorough analysis and recovery process. First, evaluate the extent of the disruption and any potential data breaches or losses. As you explore the damage, work towards restoring all services to their normal state as quickly as possible. Once your services are back online, document the incident and communicate with stakeholders about the attack and the steps to resolve it. Remember, transparency is the key to maintaining trust among customers and partners.


Defend Against DDoS Attacks with Blade Technologies

By implementing the strategies outlined above, you are well on your way to completely protecting your business against DDoS attacks. However, with the rise in denial-of-service attacks and evolving hacking methods, having a trusted cybersecurity partner is essential in fully defending against cybercrime. Blade Technologies, your premier St. Louis IT and cybersecurity firm, has the cybersecurity tools to help keep your systems locked down.

Partnering with Blade Technologies means investing in peace of mind. Our constant network monitoring, advanced cybersecurity tools, and dedicated support team provide the robust defense your business needs to thrive in our increasingly interconnected world. Don’t wait for a cyberattack to reveal the vulnerabilities in your network; contact our cybersecurity experts and secure your digital assets today.

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