Online threats like DDoS attacks are alarmingly increasing every year. It affects millions of websites, from small-owned businesses or larger enterprises. Hackers behind a DDoS attack don’t care how small or big a company is.
This year, there were 972,000 DDoS attacks in January alone. But it eventually decreased to 759,000 in June. Regardless of the decline, it was this year that the most significant DDoS attack occurred.
A group of cybercriminals aimed their attack on a German internet service provider with a terabyte-class of assault. It had a bandwidth of 1.5Tbps which is higher as compared to the DDoS attack last year.
As we continue to move businesses, education, employment, and more online, cybercriminals are given new opportunities to widen their targets.
But you may say, what is DDoS? Can it harm my business to the point of not being able to resume the operation? If so, how can I protect my business from it?
What is DDoS?
DDoS is short for Distributed Denial of Service, or sometimes, Denial of Service. It’s a sudden surge of requests or traffic to the website that overwhelms the server, causing it to crash. The attack comes from multiple locations, all at the same time. But, there are times when an attack originates from a single location.
The attack can last from hours to even days, depending on the scale of the attack. The traffic or sudden increase in the request is automated. They are not from real traffic entering a website. The number of traffic that enters using a DDoS attack is limited. Hence, some DDoS attacks eventually stop.
Unlike most threats, most DDoS attacks aim is to stop the operation of a website instead of gaining access to valuable information or data. However, some cybercriminals first attack using DDoS and soon gain access to the website when it is vulnerable.
There are various types of DDoS attacks, and each depends on the aim of the cybercriminals.
Types and Goal of DDoS Attacks
Protocol Attacks/ State-exhaustion Attacks
This attack targets the network and transport layers of the protocol. The SYN flood attack targets the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) handshake by sending “initial connection request” packets with IP addresses that are spoofed. So, the machine responds to the request. But, it cannot accomplish the task, as it waits for the final step of the handshake, which will never happen.
Application Layer Attacks
It attacks the 7th layer of the OSI model. It overloads the database with a high volume of calls. Then it exhausts the target’s resources, causing a denial-of-service.
It affects the layer that generates web pages on the server. The application layer attack is similar to refreshing a browser repeatedly from different computers but done simultaneously. The server will receive a large number of HTTP requests that it cannot handle.
Simple forms may use the same range of attacks on IP addresses, referrers, and user agents to reach the same URL. Meanwhile, complex versions may employ a huge number of attacks on the IP addresses and leverage random referrers and user agents to target different URLs.
Network-centric or Volumetric Attacks
Volumetric attack overburdens a target by devouring available bandwidth. It creates congestion between the target and the internet to consume the bandwidth.
Big traffic, such as requests from a botnet, is used to send large amounts of data to a target. The target’s IP address receives a response from an open DNS server after sending a request with a fake IP address (the victim’s IP address).
DDoS is not a simple form of threat, as there are various types of attacks on a website. However, they all do have one goal, to halt a website’s operation.
So, what happens if your business encounters a DDoS attack? What should you do then?
Effects of DDoS Attack on Your Business
Affects Website Function
The most visible and immediate result of a DDoS attack is that your website becomes overburdened and unavailable.
It implies that any business you generate through your website will be unavailable until you have it back up and running. It also has an impact on your website’s reputation. And if it’s not fixed right away, it could hurt your SEO, since if Google scans your site and discovers it’s down, you’ll lose rank.
Affected websites appear as 502 bad gateway errors. If you don’t fix the issue for a long time, you can lose all internal links listed.
Although not all DDoS attacks aim to exploit the website while it is weak, some hackers do so. Or, other hackers may discover that your website is facing a DDoS attack and grab the opportunity to deploy malware.
How can it make your website weak?
When a DDoS attack occurs, the main focus is to get the site back online. Hence, leaving other parts of the website unguarded, such as the security system.
Weaknesses due to DDoS will be used by the hacker. When this happens, it could even become worse than having a website temporarily unavailable.
Expensive and Time-consuming
Bringing back a website to run live takes time, and it costs a lot of money. Sometimes some website owners who aren’t prepared often lose everything and need to start from scratch. In that case, everything you’ve worked hard for, like SEO ranking, building your brand’s identity, and so on, would be affected.
Also, not having your website running online can affect your revenue. Instead of gaining more money, you lose by having no sales and hiring an expert to fix your website.
People support or trust a business for the services and security they offer. If your website is prone to attacks, people try to find a reliable alternative.
DDoS can damage your business’s reputation. It can affect your potential customer’s trust.
Temporarily Stops Operation
When a DDoS attack happens, it can temporarily stop the workflow process of your business. It further affects the productivity of your team. Even if the threat only affects a certain part of the website, it can still influence other aspects.
The increased number of abnormal requests can only overwhelm the server, therefore, leaves other tasks unaccomplished.
Distributed Denial-of-service attacks are brutal and harmful to a business. The amount of time and money needed to fix the issue can sometimes lead to bankruptcy for small businesses. Although protecting your business 100% at all times is unattainable, there are still ways to prevent such attacks.
How to Protect Your Business from DDoS Attacks
Get to Know Your Traffic
Every website or business owner knows what their usual traffic is. When you track and study your website’s audience, you can have an overview or idea of how many a month of visits and customers you get.
Any unusual traffic or activity on your review can raise an alert if something is going on your website. The earlier you detect suspicious traffic to your site, the less time and money you need to spend.
Create a DoS Response Plan
It is critical to create a response plan. Every business should have a plan in case of an attack.
DDoS response plans depend on the size of a business. The larger your enterprise, the more complex and detailed the plan should be.
When developing a response plan, make sure that the first step will end the problem. Assemble a team of experts and come up with a plan. You need to share it with everyone who’s part of the response team. Make sure that they are aware of their responsibility during a disaster.
What should be included?
- Assign roles and responsibilities to your team to give them an idea of what to do in case of an attack.
- Include a list of steps on who to contact or what to do.
- Create a checklist of tools, hardware, software, and things needed.
- Make a list of internal and external contacts and how to inform them about the attack.
Being prepared in case of an attack doesn’t mean it prevents it from happening. It means you can respond quickly to lessen the damage from the attack.
Implementing Basic Infrastructure Security
Preventing attacks requires multi-level strategies. It involves threat prevention practices, like firewall installation, VPN, antivirus software, email filter, and more. Together with traffic identification can prevent DDoS from happening.
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For small businesses, they can opt for cloud-based solutions for better and advanced mitigation and protection. They are affordable and can be only paid-per-use.
Furthermore, keep every system, software, and host provider updated. Never allow any of the tools you use to go out of date, as it can be a way for attackers to enter your system.
Don’t forget to back up everything vital to your business. You don’t want to end up losing everything you worked hard for.
Use Cloud-based Service or Hosting Providers
Cloud-based services offer multiple advantages. It has more bandwidth, diffuse resources, professionals that monitor threats, and more.
Although private networks and on-premises are a good alternative for hosting your website, cloud-based are far more secure and disaster-ready.
Cloud-based services can even manage harmful threats with the help of security engineers working round the clock. It means that the malicious traffic can be stopped even before it reaches a site.
Here are some samples of cloud-based DDoS Mitigation software:
- Sucuri: Detects and blocks illegitimate requests and traffic automatically. It utilizes machine learning technology for a better understanding of threats and prevention of undiscovered threats.
- Cloudflare: Most popular mitigation software for DDoS. In a single service, Cloudflare scans and protects all layers of the network. Its popularity spans more than 190 cities.
- Link11: Uses artificial intelligence to protect the system and filter out threats. It requires less effort on the part of humans.
Learn About the Warning Signs
The best way to prevent attacks is to identify warning signs. With that being said, you can take action immediately and stop DDoS attacks from affecting your business.
Furthermore, educate your team about DDoS so they can respond or warn everyone about suspicious attacks.
Some DDoS attacks can be of low or high volume. Although low-volume threats are short and common, they can lead to other incidents too. Some cybercriminals use low-volume attacks to distract the IT team. Then, they infiltrate the network by injecting malware into the site.
Perform Vulnerability Check
Run a vulnerability assessment on your network to determine any weaknesses. It can identify problems in your network and system so you can patch them before an attack can occur.
List down all devices connected to your network and the software you use. Check each for updates or activate the auto-update on all software and systems. In such a way, you can prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in your system.
DDoS is becoming a common threat, and its presence can cause minor to extreme damages to businesses. It cost millions of dollars to keep businesses up and running again.
The only way is to protect your business by being proactive in your security. Implement all the cybersecurity practices you can to secure and suffer less from attacks.