• 24th Feb 2017  / 
  • by Shaun McKay

What is a DDoS Attack and What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

DDos attacks are on the rise

DDoS attacks are on the rise in the UK. Last year, the UK was hit by 9.3% of the world’s DDoS attacks, second only to the United States. But what are DDoS attacks? And what can businesses do to protect themselves from this form of cyber attack?

What is a DDoS attack?

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. Denial of Service attacks deliberately overwhelm a network with fake traffic, forcing it to go offline and prevent genuine users from accessing the network. A DDoS attack uses multiple computers and internet connections, via botnets, to target a single system.

Victims of a DDoS attack are not just the targeted system and its users. All systems that are maliciously used to send fake traffic to the victim’s network are also affected. The effect of a DDoS attack on a system can bring down even the biggest and most well-protected computer systems.

In October 2016, there was a major DDoS attack against Dyn, one of the companies that run the internet’s domain name system (DNS). The attack took down some of the most popular sites on the web, including CNN, Netflix, Twitter, PayPal, Pinterest, Spotify, Reddit, and Fox News – as well as the Guardian and New York Times newspapers and the Wall Street Journal.

Why are DDoS attacks on the rise?

According to a report from cybersecurity firm Imperva, the increase in DDoS attacks is “fuelled by DDoS-for-hire services”. From as little as $5 a minute, anyone can launch a small attack on a network. Small DDoS attacks (under 30 minutes in duration) account for 93% of DDoS attacks in 2016. The worst attack in 2016 measured data requests coming in at 470GB per second.

Small attacks of this nature may seem trivial, but it can takes days for a system to be purged of the Trojans that trigger the attack in the first place. They also denying staff and customers from accessing services, which costs both revenue and reputation. Customers expect digital services, such as online banking, to work reliably 24hrs a day.

How to stop a DDoS attack

DDoS attacks are all about overwhelming systems with data, so bandwidth is a very important consideration. You stand a better chance of withstanding a DDoS attack if your web server is located in a hosting centre. A data centre will likely have far higher bandwidth and higher capacity routers than your business, and its staff will probably have more experience dealing with attacks.

Having your web server located with a host will also keep DDoS traffic aimed away from your onsite LAN, so at least that part of your business, like email, should operate normally during an attack.

Ultimately, if you run a small-to-medium sized business, the best you can do against a DDoS attack is buy time. DDoS attacks are being performed with such high volumes of traffic, that preventative measures at the server room level won’t protect you for long. If you get attacked, call your ISP or Hosting Provider.

Here’s what you can do to buy time

  • Get familiar with your typical levels of inbound traffic
  • Make sure your bandwidth is greater than your need to manage spikes.
  • Have a proper cyber security policy in place so that all stakeholders know how to safely use your networks and systems.
  • If a few computers are the source of the attack, identify the source of those IP and put an ACL (access control list) in your firewall to block those IPs
  • Change the IP address of the web server, if possible
  • Block the IP of the countries from whence the attacks come

Work with your service provider

Your ISP or Hosting Provider is best positioned to help you out in the event of an attack. They can null route your traffic, dropping all the data packets before they land on your server. This effectively stops your system from being attacked, but leaves your customers and stakeholders unable to access your services and systems. Then, before you can get back online, your incoming traffic needs to be “scrubbed” so malicious packets of data are removed.

DDoS attacks are scary and are on the rise. They have the ability to bring your business to a grinding halt, costing you revenue, continuity of service and the trust of your customers. Remember, if you’re the victim of an attack, time is of the essence.

If you’re interested in shoring up your cyber security with the support of a trusted partner, get in touch. Our security experts can talk you through your existing security and help you find a scalable and secure solution that suits your business needs.

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