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DDoS Attacks: What Are They? How Can You Protect Against Them?

- Reading Time: 3 minutes

Overloading a distributed network to render it inaccessible is the hallmark strategy of hackers using DDoS attacks. What exactly do these entail? Which tactics are employed? How can you spot this danger? And crucially, how can you defend against it? DataScientest has your answers.

What are Denial of Service Attacks?


DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks pinpoint distributed networks, be it a data center, an application, or a website, with the objective of making the server unreachable by causing an overload, failure, or malfunction.

In their execution, malicious hackers flood the network with countless requests, overwhelming its operational capacity. Given their limited capability to handle a sudden spike in traffic, distributed networks eventually reach a saturation point, severely impairing, or in some instances, completely blocking their functionality. This may also provide the hacker an opportunity to exploit additional vulnerabilities, inducing further failures.

As a result of the attack, the network becomes unreachable. For businesses relying on distributed networks, the ramifications of DDoS can spell disaster for their commercial operations.

Worth Noting: Although financial extortion (demanding a ransom) often underlies DDoS attacks, political motives can also play a role. Notably, 2023 has seen a marked increase in service denial attacks emanating from Russia.

Varieties of DDoS Attacks

The most prevalent form of service denial is the volumetric DDoS attack. As previously mentioned, this technique involves inundating the network with an excessive number of requests.

However, cybercriminals don’t stop there. Other manifestations of DDoS attacks include:

  • Protocol Attacks: These assaults target the network communication protocols, overwhelming intermediary devices and severing internet access.
  • Application Layer Attacks: Targeting resource-intensive modern applications, which are often less thoroughly tested, making them prime targets for hackers. These attacks concentrate on the least resource-demanding layers, making them harder to detect due to the application’s inherent high resource usage.

How does a DDoS Attack Unfold?

DDoS attacks hinge on a simple truth: network resources (like a web server or data center) have limited capabilites. They are unable to handle infinite request volumes simultaneously. When request numbers exceed the network’s handling capacity, functionality degrades, resulting in slower service or complete obstruction.

Reaching this critical threshold, cybercriminals deploy botnets: zombie networks of malware-infected computers under their control. With this army, they can launch a massive volume of requests at the target server while distributing their malware. Against the onslaught of traffic, inadequately secured networks often stand defenseless against DDoS attacks.

The Fallout of DDoS

By targeting and blocking entire distributed networks, DDoS attacks prevent access for third parties such as customers, prospects, and partners, thereby harming both the organization’s finances and its reputation.

Consider an e-commerce platform falling victim to a service denial attack – incapable of processing sales, resulting in significant financial losses if the attack persists over time.

Furthermore, aware of the attack, customers or prospects might think twice before making purchases. After all, who would willingly submit their credit card information to a compromised website? Presumably, very few.

Organizations have borne the brunt of such attacks. For example, the New Zealand Stock Exchange had to halt services for three days straight in August 2020, leading to substantial financial losses.

To Note: As these attacks significantly impact businesses, their prevalence is on the rise. In 2023, Cloudflare noted a 117% increase in DDoS incidents.

How to identify a DDoS Attack?

Regardless of their specific nature, DDoS attacks consistently aim to disrupt the smooth operation of the network by flooding it with a barrage of requests, manifesting as several anomalies:

  • A surge in traffic from a single IP address;
  • Traffic from users exhibiting identical behaviors (device type, geolocation, browser version, etc.);
  • An inexplicable increase in traffic;
  • Abnormal traffic patterns, whether in timing, geographic location, or frequency.

However, it’s paramount to preempt such phenomena through a robust cyber prevention strategy rather than merely respond to them. Seeking out a cybersecurity professional who can institute indispensable countermeasures is advisable.

Guarding Against Denial of Service Attacks

Given the catastrophic potential of DDoS on organizations, preventing system penetration is the primary concern. A suite of best practices should subsequently be adopted:

  • Consistently updating security measures;
  • Correctly configuring the firewall;
  • Enforcing complex, routinely changed passwords through a concrete policy;
  • Developing a risk management strategy to swiftly pinpoint anomalies and vulnerabilities, notably concerning traffic thresholds;
  • Implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN);
  • Opting for cloud-based solutions, leveraging their ample capacity and efficiency to curtail the attack’s impact;
  • Using a VPN to obscure your IP address and more.

While prevention is fundamental in cybersecurity, it may not always suffice. With hackers increasingly adept, cracking into secure systems isn’t uncommon. In a DDoS crisis, embarking on your training journey with cybersecurity training is a significant step towards bolstering organizational information systems.

Embark on a Cybersecurity Path

As DDoS attacks proliferate, the demand for cyber experts skilled in their mitigation is surging among businesses and governmental entities alike.

Why not seize the opportunity to train in this critical field? DataScientest offers comprehensive learning to combat myriad malicious onslaughts, thereby bolsters organizational information systems. Blending theoretical knowledge with practical skill-building, you’re assured of being workforce-ready upon completion. Embark on your training journey with us!

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