No Organization Is Safe from a DDoS Attack

Friday, February 12, 2021

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks have become a serious threat to business and government organizations worldwide. While technological advancements allow cybersecurity experts to better protect their assets, they also help DDoS attacks become more frequent and efficient. DDoS attacks are one of the favorite tools in a hacker’s arsenal, since they’re extremely effective and relatively easy to execute.

Article 6 Minutes
No Organization Is Safe from a DDoS Attack

With DDoS attacks, hackers make it impossible to use a network or machine by essentially disrupting the host's services through techniques like flooding the network with fake requests. DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly frequent — by 2022, IT experts predict that there will be an estimated 14.5 million attacks per year.

How a DDoS attack works

Modern DDoS attacks utilize complex IoT (Internet of Things) botnets to generate overwhelming amounts of traffic to their target. Even if a server has above-average bandwidth, a flood of terabytes per second will probably be enough to take it down. Consider the fact that even Internet giants like Google or Amazon aren’t safe from DDoS attacks.

In fact, the largest DDoS attack in history was in February 2020 and it targeted Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company said that this attack had a peak traffic rate of 2.34 terabits per second. While Amazon didn’t disclose who was targeted by the attack, they were able to fix the problem.

One of the earliest examples of a DDoS attack occurred two decades ago. A hacker called Mafiaboy used the networks of multiple universities to target organizations like Dell, eBay, CNN and E-Trade. In addition to blocking these websites temporarily, the teenager's antics also caused massive chaos in the stock market. Because of his attack, countries around the world began making laws about cybercrime.

At a small company, a DDoS attack can cost up to $120,000, while a larger organization may spend more than $2 million attempting to remedy the situation. No matter the size of scope of your business, your company is at risk — in order to avoid potential damages, you need to be prepared to detect, prevent and mitigate potential DDoS attacks.

How DDoS attacks can harm your business 

Here are some of the most common ways in which DDoS attacks can harm you.

  • It can stop your employees from accessing your network resources
  • Customers can’t purchase items from your website
  • Attacks make it impossible for companies to get help from customer service teams
  • Clients will stop trusting an organization that doesn’t protect their data
  • Many organizations suffer from data theft because of an infiltration
  • Sometimes, hackers steal intellectual property during an attack
  • Companies lose revenue as a result

Why do hackers use DDoS attacks?

Hackers can engage in DDoS attacks for a variety of reasons, be it financial, political, religious or personal. While a pure DDoS attack doesn’t involve stealing financial information, it can still lead to financial harm. A business could potentially target their competitor to make it harder for them to attract customers.

DDoS attacks can also be an effective as a smokescreen. While you’re distracted by the attack, a hacker can sneak into your infrastructure undetected and steal data. DDoS attacks are often used for theft of personal information, which is one more reason you need to take them seriously.

DDoS attacks are popular because they’re both simple to execute and effective. In fact, there are open-source tools that allow even inexperienced would-be hackers to launch their own DDoS attack in minutes. Mirai, for example, is a software that hijacks IoT devices and uses them to create gigantic botnets, capable of generating terabytes of fake traffic. This tool is just one of the many similar ones that hackers worldwide use for launching DDoS attacks daily.

Who can become the target of a DDoS attack?

If any portion of your organization is online, you’re potentially at risk. Nowadays, almost all industries are digitized in one form of another. The COVID-19 pandemic only sped up the process, making the entire business world go online. As you can imagine, this only incentivized hackers and increased their playing field.

DDoS attacks are often used to extort money from businesses and governments. In addition, attackers may carry out an attack to disrupt a government's normal operations.

DDoS attacks often remain undetected before it’s too late for something to be done. You may be dealing with a DDoS attack if you notice any of the following issues:

  • Your website is suddenly unresponsive
  • There are Internet connection issues at your company
  • Your company's website has a slower response time than normal
  • Users are having issues connecting to your website

How to prevent a DDoS attack

As you can see, DDoS attacks pose a serious threat to organizations worldwide. While a DDoS attack can be devastating for your business, there are steps you can take to prevent them from happening.

Reduce your attack surface area

One basic and effective way to protect yourself from DDoS attacks is to reduce your attack surface area. Limiting the access points of your network infrastructure means you’ll be able to concentrate all your defenses at a single location. You can do this by using load balancers, content distribution networks (CDNs), access control lists (ACLs) or firewalls.

Build a DDoS prevention plan

Next, you should conduct a security assessment and build a DDoS prevention plan. If an incident occurs, your team needs to know exactly which actions they should immediately take to minimize harm. This means that you need an incident response plan, escalation and notification procedures, and a response team. Additionally, you should compile a list of contacts who need to be informed about an attack.

Implement industry-grade firewalls

A firewall can help you protect against attacks like cross-site request forgery and SQL injection. If attackers manage to get through, you should also have the capacity to instantly scale your server and bandwidth capacity. For example, your hosting provider should give you plenty of redundant connectivity so that your traffic level can increase significantly. Since most DDoS attacks use a lot of resources, you need to have more computation and network resources than you actually require. Load balancers can also help you balance your fluctuating resource needs.

Boost your network security

Basic network security isn’t enough to efficiently detect and prevent DDoS attacks. You need to ensure that your organization uses state-of-the-art software, as well as best practices. Employees should be required to use complex passwords and firewalls. Because human error is a major cause of security issues, your employees need to be trained on anti-phishing methods and other security measures.

While it’s impossible to stop every attack from happening, there are steps you can take to prevent some DDoS attacks. An IT professional can help you figure out a prevention and mitigation plan for your company. Through the right security measures, you can keep your business safe.

Rick Davis

Writer

Rick is a freelance writer that specializes in cybersecurity and his mission is to spread online security awareness. In his free time, he enjoys long hikes with his dog and a great glass of Chianti.  

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