DDoS attack is something that you start hearing quite often recently, but you don’t know the nuts and bolts of it and you probably don’t know how to keep your site safe from a DDoS attack, right? Don’t worry, this post will help you with that.
The Internet is the greatest technological gift to humanity in the modern age. The introduction of the World Wide Web completely revolutionized the way we perceive the world and connect with one another.
The past decade has also seen a rise in e-commerce portals. They have not only made it more convenient for you to shop for products from the comfort of your own homes but have given small and medium scale business owners the opportunity to display their services and wares at minimum cost.
However, the Internet presents its own set of threats and hazards and one of the greatest contemporary dangers to the functionality of a specific online business happens to be the downtime of your company website.
Online security hazards
When a particular e-retail website goes down, all the incoming traffic bounces due to the display of an error message. Users view the error message and suppose that it means that the website is no longer functional.
Other online customers may opt to visit different portals to complete their purchase, resulting in a loss of sales. Moreover, if the website remains down for an extended period of time, search engines may enact Search Engine Optimization (SEO) penalties.
Not many are aware of the fact that it is possible to cause of all this intentionally. All that is required is a skilled hacker who is capable of implementing a DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack.
Understanding the various aspects of DDoS
According to the Bank Info Security website, DDoS attacks can be defined as ones which “often will be used to disguise nefarious schemes aimed at stealing intellectual property and taking over accounts, especially when the attacks are waged against smaller institutions”.
To put it simply, a DDoS attack happens to be a kind of viral attack where a specific vulnerable system is used to compromise numerous other systems by infecting them with malware. The following step usually involves the attackers using of all of them to mount a strong attack against a single target.
If you make your living from the Internet, such as bloggers and online business owners, you are more susceptible to DDoS attacks than regular online users.
Role of DDoS
When you first sign on to a particular website, you have to send a service request to the hosting site. The websites in charge of hosting are equipped to deal with a certain amount of data but the server capacity can accommodate a few more.
However, if the data amount crosses that threshold and the server is inundated with requests from all over the world, their bandwidth simply runs out of space. If such an incident occurs, legitimate users like you will be unable unable to get your service requests to your specified service provider. Neither can you reach your destination nor can you do anything about it but wait patiently.
In recent times, DDoS attacks have become extremely common and the number of business websites being affected on a regular basis is steadily rising. Almost all websites are rendered vulnerable to DDoS attacks.
The only positive aspect is that it does not affect a particular website every single day. However, in contrast, when it does, it results in dramatic and often irrecoverable loss and disruption.
Initiating DDoS Attacks on businesses
It is common for online users to hear about DDoS attacks and their initial reaction is usually unsympathetic. However, they do not understand the full extent of the problem and the manner in which it affects different businesses. It is important that the online community realize the potential dangers of DDoS attacks not just on the affected business but on others as well and take necessary precautions.
The DDoS attacks usually begin with the bombardment of your host network by the hackers. Plenty of spurious service requests are sent which tend to drown out a single lone service request.
One of the most common tactics used for this purpose is to forward millions and millions of spam e-mails to your host network. An overwhelming amount of incoming traffic or messages is sent to the target system which ultimately forces it to shut down, leading to your loss of access.
In some cases, the hackers may choose to use viruses and other malware to crowd out the real traffic arriving to the network. The regular use of this method has garnered it the title of “e-mail bomb”.
Extent of damage caused through a DDoS attack
Once the hackers have completed e-mail bombing your service provider, you tend to experience that as being unable to log on to your website. This leaves you in such a position that you are unable to check your orders, edit your blog posts, respond to comments etc.
At first, you may find this to be rather irritating but once you notice that you cannot access your site for the next few hours, you begin to understand the seriousness of the situation. This affects not just the owner of the website i.e. you, but even the poor customers who are unable to read their favourite blogs or complete their purchase from your e-commerce website.
They will slowly grow tired and irritated at the incompetence of your website without knowing the actual reason and leave to purchase the item from some other website.
This form of viral intrusion, executed through what is generally referred to as botnets, is highly threatening since it tends to go completely unnoticed until after the damage has been done. It is one of the most prominent threats to Internet security in the past few years and you must consider proper steps to protect your website from these DDoS attacks.
Mechanism of DDoS
In order to grasp the full outcome of DDoS attacks, it is necessary for you to understand computer malware and the preliminaries of how webs servers work. Some sorts of malware are carefully designed to infect a computer and run different kinds of processes in the background.
Once infected with the malware, your computer may be used to load a particular website without you even noticing. This means that the computer has finally become part of a botnet which may be viewed as a huge network of infected computers which is controlled entirely by the developer of the malware.
When you – knowingly or unknowingly – access a website and load it, the computer sends a request to the server that hosts your website. This needs both server CPU power and connection bandwidth.
The majority of web servers are equipped to handle a specific quantity of traffic before they cut off any additional incoming requests. This not only enables them to avoid glitches that open up holes in security but prevents damage to the server and hardware.
During DDoS attacks, these mechanisms are triggered, taking the website down from the public Internet and leaving you completely open to the mercy of the responsible party. They may choose any possible course of action – hold your traffic ransom, perform some sort of damaging trick, or compromise the website to steal all the user data.
How to stop DDoS attacks?
There are a few possible options if you wish to protect your valuable website and data from possible DDoS attacks. There is a common assumption among small business owners that they will remain safe due to the fact that they can fly under the radar but there is no credibility to this point; they are equally at risk as other online businesses.
In fact, if you happen to be a small business owner, chances are that you will be at risk mainly due to the fact that you do not have the resources necessary to fall back on that an international company possesses.
What is CDN? How does it work?
The best option for you is to use CDN or Content Delivery Network. These act almost like middlemen between your online business and your target audience, putting your range of technology to use in different ways that you or your regular server is unable to.
They are in possession of high performance machines and scripts which are much more resilient against oncoming traffic than the conventional web servers. In essence, CDNs enable you to eliminate the risk of tiny botnets affecting your flow of traffic.
It is possible that a widespread and continued DDoS attack may breach the defences of your online company but till then a regular DDoS hacker will find it extremely difficult to impact your website in any manner.
The majority of CDNs come packed with several different features which can be set when you sign the contract. A few of these advanced features, like edge servers and catching, allow the CDN to prevent any incoming DDoS traffic from affecting yoursite in a negative manner. Another important benefit of the CDN is that it provides an extra layer of security to your web page.
CDNs sometimes come with firewall and DNS services that remove any holes in the security system of your website and prevent the DDoS hackers from gaining access. However, if they do manage to bring down the website, you can be rest assured that your data will remain safe and secure.
Third party security options against DDoS attack
Security providers operating in recent times can provide proactive security measures against the DDoS attacks. These firms are well-equipped to analyze the incoming traffic and identify the symptoms of a future DDoS attack on your website. This system tends to work most of the time since a DDoS attack is not a clean, on-or-off action. It necessitates thousands of computers operating at the same time.
In some cases, only a few will get the signal to target your website prior to the main bulk arising as a threat. Third-party services are great at detecting these trickles of bad traffic and mounting a proper defence beforehand to lessen the potential impact of the incoming DDoS traffic.
There are some applications which have an in-built smart system capable of knowing what a regular web user tends to appear like and how they behave. It also recognizes what a standard botnet looks like. If the system encounters any sort of traffic that it identifies as malicious, it takes necessary steps to block that traffic before it can eat up the web host bandwidth for your website.
Advantages of a good web host
Despite using a CDN, you may still need the bulk of your web page to be on a regular web host. This denotes that you must choose a web host that guarantees uptime, anti-DDoS security options and resilient servers. In caseyou are not familiar with the host features, you should take a look at the terms of service.
A good host will always avoid certain aspects like bandwidth caps, limited security features, out-of-date or corrupted software and high charges for additional use of bandwidth. If the host network tends to shut down your website as soon as a specific amount of bandwidth has been used, a DDoS attack will become capable of shutting down your site for a few weeks without exerting much effort.
A good web host should always offer quality tools that can be used to protect your website. In case the framework used by the server happens to be out-of-date, hackers may take advantage of any security holes that have been left un-patched.
A web host that charges a high amount of money for excess traffic might rack up a shocking bill against a DDoS attack. Small businesses generally do not have that sort of monetary resources.
You have the option of getting in touch with the customer service department of your web host to enquire about the DDoS protection service. It is imperative that you always select a host that can gauge the threat of a DDoS attack and remain proactive regarding the application of solutions, not one that readily dismisses the importance of the threat and the concerns of the website owner.
While choosing a specific package that allocates a particular amount of bandwidth, you must ensure that it is more than you think you need.
Remote backups vs. DDoS attacks
In case a DDoS attack occurs, servers are likely to make errors that fail to save or even delete any recent changes made to the website, including recent blog updates or purchases. Under some extreme circumstances, the stressed hardware may fail, resulting in the total loss of your website.
Even though it is imperative for both the CDN and the web host to possess some sort of active backup option, you should consider having one of your own. The best option in this case is a remote, cloud-based backup since it offers a lot of security against the loss of information.
You should start using two-factor authentication right now if you wish to prevent your website from being compromised. One of the most efficient methods to hack into the web page is to use your PC.
It starts with the hacker tricking you into downloading something that traces your keystrokes and before you can realize what happened, the hacker has gotten access to all your passwords. It should not come as a surprise to know that the hackers are becoming smarter and more dangerous with time.
They have begun to update the technology that they use and so, two-factor authentication becomes necessary. This works by giving you a one-time password along you’re your normal password. You, being the owner of the business website, will be the only person who has access to the one-time password, thereby increasing the level of security by a significant extent.
A well-programmed site is immune to DDoS Attacks
The company/ firm that you hire to design your website should pay attention to certain features that can help the page prevent DDoS attacks in future. There are certain actions on a site which are more complex and detailed than the others.
Only a tiny amount of memory is necessary to load a piece of text while images take a great deal more. The more complex an operation is, the more it requires bandwidth and power.
In case it requires a large amount of resources to load a page on the website, every individual hit from the botnet turns out to be more effective. In contrast, however, if the site happens to be coded in an efficient manner, the botnet must be larger or more dedicated to their attack if they wish to succeed in affecting your website in a negative manner.
Therefore, it is up to you to ensure that your site is coded well and that the individual pages load using the minimum server requirements. A CDN assists in this process through the distribution of a fraction of the load. You must also take the precaution of testing your current infrastructure against a simulated DDoS attack.
DDoS attack: Conclusion
DDoS attacks have become increasingly commonplace in recent times as more and more devices happen to be compromised. It has become simpler for hackers than before to implement a DDoS attack against a small business, quite possibly at the request of its competitor.
It is possible for anyone to hire time on a botnet in the present day. However, if the right measures are taken, it will help you ensure that your business is completely protected against DDoS attacks.