Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS attacks have become one of the biggest challenges in the world of the modern internet. Sadly, they show no sign of going away so it's down to each company to be prepared for them.

Here is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) guide to ensure your website's performance.

What is a DDoS Attack?

It can be very helpful to understand the basics of DDoS attacks so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not a DDoS service could bring value to your company.

DDoS attacks started out as plain DoS attacks. These involved one computer sending a stream of fake traffic to a website to make it crash. As internet infrastructure improved, however, this strategy became obsolete.

Sadly, however, this was not the end of the story. DoS morphed into DDoS - Distributed Denial of Service attacks. The difference between DoS attacks and the original DDoS attacks is that DDoS attacks use multiple computers, chained together to make botnets. This gave the attackers the sort of firepower they needed to make themselves a threat to companies using broadband internet connections.

This form of DDoS attack is still very much in use today, although it's much more of a threat to SMBs than to enterprises. It is, however, now known specifically as infrastructure-level DDoS as a new form of DDoS has emerged which poses a different kind of challenge.

DDoS Service

Application-level DDoS follows the same basic premise as infrastructure-level DDoS, but it applies that premise in a much more sophisticated manner. Instead of just throwing everything it can find at the target website, it aims to send just enough traffic to disrupt key parts of its operation, like the login page or the payment page.

The cyberattackers know that they don't need to bring the services down completely. In fact, they are unlikely to want to do so since this would draw attention to the attack. Instead, they want to do just enough to cause users to give up and go elsewhere while staying undetected for as long as possible.

Even when IT teams pick up that something is wrong, it is often a challenge for them to single out the identifying characteristics of the attacking traffic. This is the complete opposite of infrastructure-level DDoS attacks. These are about as blatant as it is possible to be. As a result, they are, in principle, very easy to detect and remedy. In practice, however, their sheer power can overwhelm even a robust firewall.

3 Ways to Defend your Website Against DDoS Attacks

Given that DDoS attacks are an unfortunate part of life on the modern internet, it makes sense to prepare for them as best as you can. A DDoS service can play a very useful role in boosting your defenses.

1. Bandwidth is your first line of defense against DDoS attacks

There are two main reasons why you hardly ever hear about major companies being taken offline by infrastructure-level DDoS attacks. One of them is that they have the sort of bandwidth of which the average SMB can only dream.

Even though SMBs can't tank up on bandwidth in the same way as enterprises, they can, should, and arguably must, buy as much bandwidth as they can reasonably afford.

2. Monitoring server response helps to identify problems quickly

You should be ping-testing your server regularly so that you give yourself a good fighting chance of being able to pick up on problems when they are just getting started rather than finding out when they are so severe that neither you nor your customers can miss them.

3. Firewalls and a DDoS service can manage your traffic between them

A robust firewall is your everyday traffic-management solution. Its main purpose is to identify (and block) malicious traffic. It can, however, also be used to whitelist traffic which is known to be safe. Firewalls do play a very useful role in both preventing DDoS attacks and remedying those which do occur.

These days, however, a firewall on its own may struggle to manage either form of DDoS attacks. With infrastructure-level DDoS attacks, the challenge is to do a minimal amount of checking on a massive deluge of traffic. With application-level DDoS attacks, there may be less traffic to handle, but it's better concealed and hence requires more work to identify.

In either case, if your firewall becomes overwhelmed, your legitimate customers are going to be inconvenienced. This is where a DDoS service comes in useful. You can think of it as a backup for your firewall which only activates when a DDoS attack is detected. It takes over a lot of the processing load, leaving your firewall free to get on with the other parts of its job

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