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What is a DDoS Attack and How to Prevent Them

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A Denial-of-Service attack (DDoS) is a type of cyberattack that seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by flooding the target with traffic from multiple sources, attackers can prevent legitimate users from accessing the service or resource. In this blog post, we will explain what a DDoS attack is, how a DDoS attack works, how to identify a DDoS attack, what are common types of DDoS attacks, and how your organization can protect against them.

What is a DDoS attack?

A DDoS attack is a type of cyberattack that seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. By flooding the target with traffic from multiple sources, attackers can prevent legitimate users from accessing the service or resource and cause the target system to crash or become overloaded.

How does a DDoS attack work?

To launch a DDoS attack, an attacker must first gain control of a network of computers – this is known as a botnet. The attacker then uses the botnet to send traffic to the target, overwhelming it with requests and causing it to become unavailable. The volume of traffic can overwhelm the target and prevent it from responding to legitimate requests. Or they might use a technique called amplification, which amplifies the amount of traffic sent to the target by using public DNS servers.

DDoS attacks can be launched from anywhere in the world, and do not require any special skills or knowledge. Attackers can simply rent or buy a botnet, or use one they have created themselves to launch an attack.

How to identify a DDoS attack?

Several signs may indicate you are under a DDoS attack:

  • Unusually high network traffic.
  • Slow network performance.
  • Frequent disconnections from the Internet.
  • Application or website errors.

Other signs can include the following:

  • Your network security team detects unusual network traffic patterns.
  • You receive complaints from users about slow network performance or frequent disconnections.

Technically, two primary means or approaches can help you detect a DDoS attack:

  • An in-line examination of your network traffic and network flow data where the network security device examines all network traffic as it passes through the device.
  • An out-of-band examination of network activity where a DDoS detection appliance, separate from your network security devices, examines all network traffic.

What are common types of DDoS attacks?

Common types of DDoS attacks include the following:

Volumetric attacks are the most common type of DDoS attack. They seek to overload the network bandwidth or resources of the target, such as CPU or memory. Examples of volumetric attacks include ICMP floods, UDP floods, and SYN floods.

Protocol attacks exploit vulnerabilities in network protocols, such as TCP, UDP, and ICMP. These attacks can cause a network to crash or become unavailable by consuming all available resources. Common examples of protocol attacks include SYN floods, Ping of Death, and Smurf attacks.

Application layer attacks target the application layer of the OSI model. These attacks seek to exhaust the resources of the web server or application, such as CPU, memory, or database connections. Common types of application-layer attacks include Slowloris and XML bombs.

How can organizations protect against DDoS attacks?

Organizations can help protect against DDoS attacks by implementing the following security measures:

  • Use a network monitoring tool to detect unusual network traffic patterns.
  • Implement rate-limiting on network devices and applications.
  • Use a web application firewall (WAF) to protect against application-layer attacks.
  • Block or rate-limit traffic from suspicious IP addresses.
  • Ensure that your network security devices and systems are up-to-date.

Organizations can also protect themselves against DDoS attacks by testing the security of their networks against any type of attack, not only DDoS attacks. That’s where network penetration testing comes in.

Protecting Your Organization From DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks are a serious threat to any organization. They can cause significant damage, not only by making your systems or services unavailable but also by jeopardizing your sensitive data. Taking steps to protect your assets against DDoS attacks is essential for your organization to maintain its online presence and keep its data secure. Implementing the security measures seen in this post can be your first step; testing the security of your networks can be your next one.

If you need help protecting your networks against cyber threats, contact us.

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