Tech Tips

May 10, 2018

DDoS Attacks 101

For today's Cyber Fu Tip, we're talking DDoS attacks. What they are, how they can impact your business, and what you can do to prevent them.

DDoS attacks are ugly. They can strike at any time. Their favorite targets are major websites and bank gateways, but they can (and often do) hit business networks as well.


What is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS stands for "Distributed Denial of Service." These are cyberattacks that try to bring down a network by flooding it with tons of traffic. This overwhelms the target's servers, forcing them to shut down.

The "Distributed" part comes from the attack method. Cybercriminals infect thousands of computers worldwide with a malware app that they can activate remotely. When it's time to attack, all of the infected computers start sending traffic requests to one target. Like one of your servers.

Millions of requests come in at once. Repeated every second. Think of a doorway at a stadium, when thousands of people try to fit through it at the same time. What happens? The doorway's totally clogged.

Why do DDoS attacks happen? Most often they're done for revenge, activism, business disruption, or even blackmail. They're meant for destruction…and they're very good at what they do. Which is why everyone needs to know about them.


How to Prevent DDoS Attacks

Think of a castle wall. If the invaders are already through the gate, does it make sense to close it? As such, if you're hit by a DDoS attack, it's too late. You're much better off taking precautions beforehand.

We do have effective methods to "keep the gate closed." These are some methods by which you can stop DDoS attacks from hitting you.

  • Harden your network. Most routers, switches, and other network components are easily overwhelmed by DDoS attacks. Unless you incorporate hardening. This helps fight against DDoS as well as malware & phishing attacks.
  • If you run an online service, install a Web Application Firewall (WAF). These watch all web-related traffic for suspicious activity, and zap it if they see it. WAFs can come in the form of a software application, online service, or a hardware device.
  • Use upstream filtering. When you do, all incoming traffic passes through a "cleaning center" to weed out bad traffic. These are normally third-party online services.
  • Use an internet appliance like F5 to close off traffic from IP ranges of known hackers. If no one from China needs access to your website or would be interested in your services, close off all Chinese IP ranges, for instance.
  • If you have a high visibility site and rely on it for commerce – talk to us about F5 firewalls. We have used these on a number of highly trafficked websites, and have eliminated attacks altogether.
  • Educate your employees on cybersecurity awareness! DDoS attacks aren't triggered internally. But if employees accidentally infect your computers with malware, cybercriminals can use those computers to attack other networks.

DDoS attacks make the news when they hit. That's how bad the damage can get. You don't want to become a DDoS target. Minimize the possibility with some good Cyber Fu, stay vigilant, and you should be fine.


Additional Resources:
Defending Your Network Against DDoS Attacks - TripWire
How Do You Protect Against DDoS Attacks? – Arbor Networks


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