3 Common Methods DDoS Attackers Use and 4 Tips to Protect Your Site
2020 was a hectic year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Adapting to the “new normal” of things, companies rapidly accelerated their digitization efforts across almost all sectors in order to survive amidst social distancing measures and lockdowns. While COVID-19 has rendered going digital a necessity for businesses, the Web can be a dangerous place for your business, as it is often vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Cyberattacks are an ongoing problem that was rising even before the pandemic struck. However, the pandemic introduced an element of surprise, as everyone scrambled to go digital without bothering with the details. Small-scale businesses might also not have the proper expertise to put in place necessary security measures. Unfortunately, this meant open season to cyber attackers. So, in 2020, cyber crime comprised over 80% of incidents every month.
More specifically, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have been a growing concern. Comparing the first half of 2019 to 2020, there was an alarming 151% increase in the number of DDoS attacks. And this number is expected to rise to a mind-blowing 15.4 million attacks by 2023.
How Does a DDoS Attack Work?
A DDoS attack floods a website, server, service, or network with massive volumes of internet traffic until it becomes overwhelmed and, in simple terms, “breaks.” While the server, site, or whatever the target may be is down, the costs keep mounting and mounting. So, cyber attackers use this as leverage to extort huge amounts of money from the affected parties.
Does it work?
Indeed, it does. In fact, it is highly effective, as businesses usually just want to get the problem resolved and try to cover whatever losses they might have incurred during the attack. Naturally, that only encourages the hackers, especially as a large number of DDoS attacks remain unreported.
Common Types of DDoS Attacks
As daunting as this may sound, though, there are steps you can take to protect your site from these attacks. The first step is to get informed of the different methods of attack that may target your site.
The most common type of DDoS attacks, volumetric attacks, use bots to pose as legitimate traffic and flood the network or server, which overwhelms it. This prevents the network or server from processing traffic, hindering subsequent requests to the site.
Application Layer Attacks/Layer 7 Attacks
An application layer attack targets a specific layer where the server churns out web pages while responding to http requests. This type of attack works at a slower pace so as to disguise itself as legitimate user activity. By the time you finally realize what’s going on, it ‘s too late, and the site becomes inoperable.
Application layer attacks are a popular choice among hackers because they are inexpensive to operate. Plus, it is also easier for attackers to stay under the radar to plan their attack. These attacks are also often combined with other types of attacks, targeting both the network and bandwidth. This may cause even more severe damage.
TCP Connection Attacks/SYN Floods
TCP connection attacks, as the name suggests, prey on the weaknesses of the TCP connection sequence, which is also the connection between the host and server. When a TCP attack is launched, the connection is inhibited. However, the port remains connected and thus inaccessible to other requests. Attackers will continue to flood available ports with requests until the server is forced to shut down.
Tips to Protect Yourself from DDoS Attacks
Now that you are aware of the directions that DDoS attacks may come from, it is crucial to identify your site’s vulnerabilities and put in place plans for defense and mitigation.
Here are some tips:
Firewalls and Routers
Firewalls and routers work to protect your site from bogus traffic, so this should be your first line of defense. Make sure they are regularly updated with the latest security patches.
Anti-DDoS systems can help you identify suspicious fluctuations in network traffic, which often signifies a DDoS attack.
Should an attack occur, always remember that the sooner you detect the threat, the sooner you can nip it in the bud and contain the damage. The first thing you should do is to inform your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see if the traffic can be dispersed or re-routed. Re-routing the traffic will keep your site from crashing. However, the downside is that both legitimate and illegitimate traffic will be sent away while your site is under siege.
The development of AI programs that can identify and defend against DDoS attacks is underway. The self-learning capabilities of future AI systems will also help us identify and predict new DDoS attack patterns.
Last but not least, you should always secure all your devices. Especially for consumers, it is crucial to have at least one line of defense that can be in the form of trusted, regularly updated security software. Doing this will prevent your device from becoming part of a botnet.
Additionally, make sure all your devices are protected with complicated, secure passwords and a strong firewall.
If you’ve just recently taken your business online, you will immediately be open to DDoS attacks. The best way to protect it is to stay informed of the different strategies attackers could use to launch an attack on your site and put in place measures to safeguard it.
The damages left by DDoS attacks can be severe even for bigger companies, as they often cause substantial losses.
The bottom line is:
No site is safe, so be sure to take the necessary steps and stay one step ahead of attackers at all times.