How to Prevent DDoS Attacks
It’s vital to know how to protect your website from DDoS attacks. These are now one of the major hazards of the internet and can cripple enterprises let alone SMBs. Here is what you need to know.
A brief explanation of DDoS
Before you start thinking about how to protect your website from DDoS attacks, it’s a good idea to make sure that you actually understand what they are.
DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. The basic idea behind a DDoS attack is that the attacker floods the system with spam traffic to the point where it cannot be accessed by legitimate users.
In infrastructure-level DDoS attacks, the signature is often very obvious, for example, it may be that the IP addresses all originate from the same country and that country is one from which you usually have little to no traffic.
Attacks on levels six and seven are usually smaller in scale but more sophisticated in nature. They will generally target a key area of a website, such as the login page or payment page, rather than the website as a whole. The basic strategy for remedying them is the same, you find the signature and block it, but it can be more difficult to implement.
How to Protect Your Website from DDoS Attacks
When it comes to any form of attack on your website, be it malware or DDoS, prevention is definitely better than cure. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take which will help to protect your website from DDoS attacks.
Buy as much bandwidth as you can reasonably afford
The more bandwidth you have at your disposal, the harder it is to bring your website to its knees with a DDoS attack. Obviously, the more bandwidth you have, the more you pay for it, so there needs to be a cost/benefit analysis. As a rule of thumb, however, you should aim to buy as much bandwidth as you can safely afford.
Think carefully about what you allow users to do on your website
It may sound harsh, but any action a user can take on your website is a potential attack vector. Even something as simple as logging in can be used to inject your website with malicious code. In the context of DDoS, it’s probably fair to say that the single, biggest user-facing point of vulnerability is the ability to upload files. If you permit this, it is strongly recommended to limit the size of the files which can be uploaded, otherwise, you’re basically just asking for this to be used as a channel for DDoS attacks.
Implement a website vulnerability scanner
Quite bluntly, these days, if you’re running a business website, you need a website vulnerability scanner. The good news is that you can get some excellent options at prices even SMBs can comfortably afford. Different website vulnerability scanners will have different functions but any decent option should have an anti-malware product and a web applications firewall.
In the context of DDoS, it’s the latter that’s important. You can use it as a way to control what traffic gets access to what parts of your website.
Try to implement flexible infrastructure
Having flexibility in your infrastructure can enable you to mitigate the impact of a DDoS attack while you work on finding the cause and hence the remedy. It may be worth having a conversation with your ISP to see what help they could give you in the event of a DDoS attack. They might not be able to increase your bandwidth directly, but they could potentially help to re-route traffic while they are in progress and thus ease the pain for your website.
You can also use a smart DNS resolution service. This makes it very straightforward to re-route your users to an alternate location in the event of a DDoS attack (or if your primary application endpoint becomes unavailable for any other reason).
Another option would be to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN). This basically reverses the traditional model of users being “pulled” to your location. Instead, the CDN figures out where your users are located and “pushes” your content to the data center nearest to them.
You might also want to look at load balancers, which do exactly what their name suggests. They can be a great help in preventing servers from becoming overloaded.
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