A distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) is one of many weapons in a hacker’s arsenal. As can be inferred by the name, a DDoS attack is meant to keep users from accessing a website, network or their own devices. Disturbingly simple, this form of cyberassualt has been used by a range of groups with a wide degree of success in disrupting commerce, security and the everyday lives of innocent bystanders.
What Is a DDoS Attack?
At the core of a DDoS attack lies the DoS, or denial-of-service. A denial-of-service takes advantage of a server’s, network’s or device’s inability to handle too much incoming information, resulting in a system crash.
Unlike DDoS, which is always a purposeful act and often coordinated, DoS can be inadvertent. For example, a DoS may occur if an organization releases a popular item or service, but underestimates the amount of traffic said release will drive to its site. Without the proper server setup to handle so much traffic, legitimately excited customers or fans may accidently crash the site by attempting to access it all at the same time. This occurred back in 2008 when Joss Whedon’s much-anticipated indie project, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, went live online, only to crash within minutes.
While a DoS attack can be used by hackers, they’re more likely to utilize a DDoS attack, which is more difficult to fight. A distributed denial-of-service entails an assault launched from multiple sources, meaning cyber security must identify and block multiple IP addresses. In most cases, sources are “zombie” computers commandeered by hackers through malware, which is one reason using antivirus software is essential when browsing the internet.
Why Do Hackers Use Them?
Hackers use DDoS attacks for several reasons, including
- To send a political message
- To extort organizations
- To show their digital prowess and make a name for themselves
- To induce mayhem for no particular reason
Of these four, extortion is the most common, with many hackers launching an assault that takes down a business’s site, then offering to stop for a hefty sum. Since a downed site can cost companies thousands of dollars in missed business while attempting to fight an attack, many organizations eventually pay, making this scheme lucrative for cyber criminals. Some hackers even sell their services, initiating assaults against a target for a price.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Individual users can lead the charge against these kinds of attacks by protecting their devices from malware that gives hackers access. To this end, users should employ antivirus software, firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Organizations looking to protect their networks and websites also have several options, namely the following:
- Cloud mitigation
- Upstream filtering
- DoS defense system (DDS)
- Application front end hardware
A cyber security professional can recommend the best option based on your organization’s size and digital needs.
Super Source GmbH is dedicated to providing the IT security expertise you need to guard against cyberattacks. To learn more about our services, contact us online.