2023, August 30
·
Security
·
9 min read
·
Matt S.

How to Stop DDoS Attacks? Beginners Guide

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack is a malicious act that targets websites or network systems. You can use multiple strategies to protect yourself.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, one type of threat that has consistently plagued website owners and companies is Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Since their first appearance in the early 2000s, these malicious attacks have grown into a powerful weapon for cybercriminals, causing headaches and significant financial losses for victims worldwide. For those new to the field of cybersecurity, specifically aspiring security specialists, comprehending the intricacies of DDoS attacks can be a daunting endeavor. Fear not, for this beginners guide is designed to provide you with the ultimate know-how to combat DDoS attacks effectively. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will be armed with the essential knowledge and strategies required to safeguard your online presence and shield against the relentless onslaught of DDoS attacks that can cripple businesses and organizations.

What is a DDoS Attack?

First, before jumping into action, let's understand what is a DDoS attack. Long story short, a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack is a malicious act that targets online entities, such as websites or network systems, with the intention of overwhelming their resources and rendering them inaccessible or unusable. Unlike traditional cyber attacks that aim to breach security measures or steal data, DDoS attacks focus on disrupting the normal functioning of a target system by flooding it with an enormous volume of incoming traffic. This flood of traffic, originating from multiple sources controlled by the attacker, overloads the target's network infrastructure, servers, or bandwidth, causing a complete or partial denial of service to legitimate users. Essentially, a DDoS attack seeks to exhaust the victim's resources, rendering their online presence helpless against the relentless onslaught and potentially causing significant financial and reputational damage.
Basically, it's an attack by bad people that send so much stuff to a website or computer that it gets too busy and can't work properly for the people who want to use it.
Here's an example from OneLogin to display how it works:

How DDoS Attacks Are Started?

DDoS attacks are initiated through various methods that harness the power of multiple devices and networks to overwhelm a target system. Attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in computers, servers, or Internet-connected devices to gain control over them, turning them into "zombies" or "bots." These compromised devices are then organized into a network, known as a botnet, which acts as a unified force to launch the attack.
Once the botnet is assembled, the attacker can command each compromised device to simultaneously flood the target system with an enormous amount of traffic or requests. This flood of traffic, which exceeds the target's capacity to handle, leads to a degradation or complete disruption of its services, causing a denial of service for legitimate users. Attackers may employ various techniques, such as amplification, reflection, or application layer attacks, to multiply the impact of their assault and further amplify the disruption caused, making DDoS attacks challenging to mitigate and defend against. Only by understanding the methods used to initiate these attacks can security professionals develop effective strategies to prevent, detect, and mitigate DDoS attacks successfully.

Are DDoS Attacks Dangerous?

DDoS attacks can be highly dangerous and pose significant risks to individuals, businesses, and organizations. These attacks have the ability to disrupt the normal functioning of websites, online services, and computer networks, resulting in financial losses, reputational damage, and potential legal consequences.
DDoS attacks can render websites or online services unavailable for extended periods, impacting user experience and causing frustration to customers. In some cases, these attacks can be used as a distraction to divert attention from other malicious activities, such as data breaches or unauthorized access attempts. Furthermore, businesses that heavily rely on their online presence for sales or operations may suffer severe financial consequences due to the downtime and loss of customers during a DDoS attack.
Therefore, it is crucial for individuals and organizations to be aware of the dangers posed by DDoS attacks and take proactive measures to protect themselves against this threat.
Let's look at the 2022-2023 Q1 DDoS threat report by Cloudflare. Cloudflare is hosting millions of websites, protecting them against these attacks and they have a clear view, that almost one in six people are targetted by DDoS attacks - and they can get pretty dangerous if you don't do anything.

How to Prevent a DDoS Attack?

Preventing a DDoS attack doesn't have to be complicated, even for beginners. Here are some simple steps that individuals and organizations can take to help protect against DDoS attacks:
1. Strengthen Your Network Security: Make sure to install security software, such as firewalls and antivirus programs, on all devices connected to your network. These tools can help detect and block malicious traffic attempting to infiltrate your system.
2. Regularly Update Software: Keep all operating systems, applications, and plugins up to date on your devices. Software updates often include patches that address security vulnerabilities, making it harder for attackers to exploit them.
3. Use a DDoS Protection Service: Consider subscribing to a DDoS protection service that specializes in filtering out malicious traffic before it reaches your network. These services can help ensure your website or online services remain accessible during an attack.
4. Employ Rate Limiting and Traffic Filtering: Configure your network devices, such as routers and firewalls, to set limits on the amount of incoming traffic allowed from specific sources. This can help prevent your network from being overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information.
5. Educate Your Staff: Train your employees to recognize and report any suspicious emails, links, or attachments they may encounter. This prevents them from inadvertently clicking on malicious links that could lead to DDoS attacks.
6. Monitor Network Traffic: Implement simple network monitoring tools or engage with a managed service provider that can help monitor your network traffic for any unusual patterns or spikes that indicate a possible DDoS attack. Prompt detection allows for quick response and mitigation.
7. Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider: Select a reputable hosting provider that offers DDoS protection services as part of their package. These providers have robust infrastructure and expertise to combat DDoS attacks effectively.
8. Consider Utilizing Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): CDNs help distribute your web content across multiple servers globally. This distribution ensures that even if one server is targeted by a DDoS attack, your website remains accessible through other servers within the CDN network.
Remember, implementing these measures doesn't guarantee complete invulnerability, but they greatly reduce the risk of a successful DDoS attack. By taking these simple steps, even beginners can fortify their defenses against these disruptive and damaging attacks.

What if I am under a DDoS Attack?

When faced with a DDoS attack, it is crucial to remain calm and promptly take action to mitigate its impact. Here are three essential steps you should follow if you find yourself under attack:
1. Notify your Internet Service Provider (ISP): As soon as you become aware of the DDoS attack, contact your ISP and make them aware of the situation. They possess valuable knowledge and resources to assist you in mitigating the attack. By notifying them, they can implement measures to help redirect traffic away from your network or provide guidance on handling the situation effectively.
2. Activate DDoS protection services: If you have access to a specialized DDoS protection service or have subscribed to one, activate it immediately. Such services are equipped with advanced monitoring and filtering capabilities that can analyze incoming traffic in real-time. They identify and block malicious requests, allowing only legitimate traffic to reach your network. By leveraging these protective measures, you can significantly reduce the impact of the attack.
3. Implement mitigation techniques: Simultaneously, take steps to mitigate the attack on your end. Utilize network monitoring tools to identify any distinct characteristics of the attack, such as atypical traffic spikes or unusual patterns. This valuable information can be shared with your ISP or DDoS protection service to aid in diagnosing and addressing the attack effectively. Additionally, configure your network devices, such as routers and firewalls, to implement rate limiting and traffic filtering. By setting thresholds and blocking suspicious or excessive traffic, you can create barriers that limit the attack's impact on your network.
While these three steps provide a solid foundation for combating a DDoS attack, it is important to note that every attack is unique. It is wise to work in close collaboration with professionals and follow their guidance throughout the mitigation process. By preserving detailed logs of the attack, communicating with your users about potential disruptions, and implementing necessary measures to prevent future attacks, you can restore normal operations and bolster your defenses against such disruptions in the future.

Conclusion

In conclusion, DDoS attacks remain a persistent and devastating threat in the cybersecurity landscape. However, armed with knowledge and preventive measures, individuals and organizations can minimize their vulnerability and mitigate the potential damage caused by these attacks.
The key to combating DDoS attacks lies in a multi-faceted approach. Strengthening network security, regularly updating software, and utilizing DDoS protection services are crucial steps in fortifying defenses against these attacks. Implementing rate limiting and traffic filtering techniques, along with educating employees about potential risks, further enhances the overall security posture.
In addition, monitoring network traffic, selecting reliable hosting providers, and leveraging Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can help distribute the incoming traffic and minimize the impact of an attack. These measures, while not foolproof, significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to DDoS attacks.
However, should an attack occur, expedient action is required. Notifying the Internet Service Provider (ISP), activating DDoS protection services, and implementing mitigation techniques such as network monitoring and rate limiting become essential. Collaborating with professionals throughout the recovery process and preserving attack logs allows for a comprehensive understanding of the attack and assists in building stronger defenses for the future.
By understanding the nature of DDoS attacks and implementing the recommended strategies, individuals and organizations can effectively combat this relentless threat. While no solution guarantees invulnerability, these proactive measures go a long way in tilt the odds in favor of a secure and resilient online environment. Stay alert, informed, and prepared to safeguard against the ever-evolving landscape of DDoS attacks.
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