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What Is A DDoS Attack? A Beginner’s Guide

WRITTEN BY
Daren Low
UPDATED
April 14, 2024

 

The world’s largest companies rely on the internet for their operations. However, as these companies continue to grow their businesses and websites, they also risk becoming targets for DDoS attacks.

 

Nowadays, these attacks are more common due to more devices needing an internet connection, like your smartphone or your laptop (even today’s refrigerators need the internet!). So, protecting yourself online has become more important now than ever.

 

In this article, we’ll cover the basics first:

 

 

You’ll also learn what exactly a DDoS attack is and how it can affect you. Let’s get to it!

 

What Is a DDoS Attack?

 

what are DDoS attack featured image

 

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to make an online service unavailable. An attack typically involves sending a flood of requests over the internet, which overwhelms the target’s servers and prevents them from processing legitimate requests.

 

DDoS attacks can be difficult to defend against because they usually involve numerous systems the attacker controls.

 

However, you can take steps to protect yourself against DDoS attacks, such as keeping systems up-to-date with security patches and using firewalls and other security measures—more on that in a bit.

 

 


Why Do DDoS Attacks Happen In The First Place?

 

DDOS attacking your network

DDoS attacks target your system to damage your network and business.

 

The first thing to know about a DDoS attack is that it’s not usually just one person or group of people trying to take down a website. A DDoS attack is typically done by an organized criminal gang, who work together to achieve their goal.

 

They might use malware or other tools that allow them access without having any credentials (like social media accounts) attached. These criminals will then use this access until they’re able to overwhelm the target website with traffic and crash it, causing inconvenience for customers and employees alike.

 

Furthermore, DDoS attacks can be very costly to targeted organizations. The financial costs can include lost productivity, lost revenues, and increased costs for security and mitigation. After all, downtime is money lost. DDoS attacks can also damage an organization’s reputation and credibility.

 

So, building resilience against DDoS attacks is critical but requires significant investment in people, processes, and technologies. The total cost of a DDoS attack can be very difficult to calculate, but the economic impact can be enormous.

 

 


Types of DDoS Attacks

 

There are different types of DDoS attacks, and they’re all designed to be used in combination with each other. In fact, there are so many types that it’s hard to know what you’re up against unless you understand them all.
 

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the three main types of DDoS attacks—volumetric, protocol, and application attacks:

 

  • Volumetric Attacks
    The most common type of DDoS attack. They’re designed to saturate the bandwidth of the victim’s network, making it impossible for legitimate traffic to get through.
  • Protocol Attacks
    These attacks exploit the weaknesses in the protocols used to route traffic across the internet. These attacks can cause the victim’s network to crash or become unreachable.
  • Application Attacks
    Attackers can target specific applications running on the victim’s server. These attacks can overload the server or cause the application to crash.

 

As you can see, these types of attacks can pose a real risk to the security of your network. It’s important to understand that even if you’re not a network administrator, you should still be familiar with these types of attacks and how they work so that you can properly protect yourself from them.

 

 

Can You Spot a DDoS Attack?

 

how attacker use bots to attacks

A cybercriminal floods your network with bots, virtually blocking all legitimate connections to your network.

 

DDoS attacks are not easy to spot. It is often difficult to distinguish between legitimate traffic and a DDoS attack, and it can be even more difficult to distinguish between normal traffic and a DDoS attack.

 

This is because DDoS attacks are very sophisticated and can easily blend in with normal traffic. However, here are some signs that you can look out for to help you spot a DDoS attack:

 

  1. An unusual amount of traffic coming from one IP address (this could be an indication that the IP address is being used as part of a botnet).
  2. Unexpected spikes in network activity (for example, if your website suddenly becomes inaccessible and then returns to normal after a few minutes).
  3. A sudden increase in external requests for your website or online services (the attack is using spoofed IP addresses to send traffic to your website).
  4. A sudden increase in requests from new users (attackers using compromised user accounts or passwords).

 

The fact that there is so much noise in the world of cybercrime, in fact, makes it even more important for you as an online user to have some sort of protection in place. If you want your business or personal information protected from these criminals, you need to have a good security program.

 

 

How Do You Protect Yourself from a DDoS Attack?

 

Although it can be difficult to protect yourself from a DDoS attack, there are some things you can do to help minimize your risk.

 

First, make sure that you have an antivirus program in place on all of your devices. This will help prevent any malware from infecting your device and spreading throughout the network. Second, use strong passwords. By using longer passwords with different types of characters—such as a combination of numbers and punctuation marks—you can make it more difficult for hackers to break into your accounts.

 

Apart from these measures, here are other things you can do to protect yourself from a DDoS attack:

 

  • Use a CDN
    A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers that store and deliver content to customers, removing the burden from your own server. This can help you reduce downtime and increase your speed when it comes to serving up pages and images on your site, which would otherwise be slowed down by heavy traffic. Popular CDNs like Cloudflare use a combination of data centers and caches to ensure that your content is served quickly, even when under attack.
  • Take advantage of cloud hosting
    Cloud hosting allows you to host your website in a third-party data center rather than on your own server. This offers many benefits including better security, scalability, and reliability—allowing you to focus on running your business instead of worrying about the technical details of keeping it online.
  • Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
    A WAF is an application designed to protect web applications from attacks like DDoS attacks, SQL injections, or cross-site scripting attacks. They do this by checking incoming requests against known attack signatures before passing them through so they don’t get through at all. You can also use WAFs as failover protection for other types of security systems like antivirus software.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
    A VPN is a tool that enables a secure connection between your computer and a server that lets you access the internet as if you were in another location. This allows you to “tunnel” out of your network and hide your identity, which is especially important if you’re using public Wi-Fi.

 

VPN on laptop

VPNs add another layer of protection to your network.

 

There are different ways to protect yourself from a DDoS attack. The best way to protect yourself is to have a plan in place to mitigate the attack and keep your website or service online.

 

 

How do web hosts protect themselves (and you) from DDoS attacks?

 

DDoS attacks are often directed at a web host because they’re a central part of the internet infrastructure. They can cause web hosts to lose money and customers because their services are unavailable. However, web hosts can take steps to protect themselves from DDoS attacks, such as monitoring for suspicious activity and having strong security measures in place.

 

Web hosts like A2 Hosting have even gone so far as to offer DDoS protection as a service to their customers. This helps ensure that even if a web host is targeted by a DDoS attack, its customers will still be able to access its website. Furthermore, a web host will work with its customers to help them determine the source of the attack and take steps to prevent future attacks.

 

 

DDoS Attacks Are Scary but Manageable

 

DDoS attacks can be very scary for many people, but this article should give you some insight into the process and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one. Make sure to work with a secure web host that offers DDoS protection for your site and regularly check for any signs of an attack.

 

Build resiliency into your network model, using multiple layers of protection, and have a DDoS response plan ready to go. In the end, if you do become a victim, don’t despair. The odds of attack are unlikely, but there are plenty of tools available to restore your site quickly and efficiently.