What is a DDoS attack and how do I prevent it?

DDoS is one of the most common cyber attacks these days. The hackers flood the server with false traffic and overwhelm it with fake requests till the point it crashes. Services fail to differentiate between fake and genuine requests and become unavailable. 

Results are drastic for any business. The website has to go through prolonged downtime. As a result, the company loses revenue and customers. 

We will explain what businesses can do to prevent DDoS attacks and stay steps ahead of hackers. 

The Working of DDoS Attacks

We know that DDoS attacks flood the server with traffic to crash it. The sudden surge in messages and connection requests overwhelms the infrastructure. Commonly, DDoS attacks target:

  • Online retailers
  • IT service providers
  • Financial and fintech companies
  • Government entities
  • Online gaming and gambling companies  

In most cases, hackers use a botnet, a linked network of malware-infected computers, mobile devices, and IoT gadgets. But, of course, hackers can control all these devices. These devices send excessive requests to a target website or server's IP address on the hacker's command.

Ultimately, the recipient server is unable to control and fails. Every server has a limit. However, the amount of downtime may vary in different types of attacks. Here are the findings of a report:

  • 33% of DDoS attacks make services go unavailable for sixty minutes. 
  • 60% make the servers unavailable for one whole day. 
  • 15% cause the damage severe enough to last a month.

DDoS attacks do not result in any data breach. Instead, they make you offline; it takes time and money to make you online again. Meanwhile, you must deal with damaged brand reputation, abandoned shopping carts, and angry customers. 

How To Prevent DDoS Attacks?

Let us tell you about seven great things you can do to minimize the probability of DDoS attacks. 

  • Create a DDoS Response Plan

Your security team should develop an incident response plan that ensures staff members respond promptly and effectively in case of a DDoS. This plan should cover:

It would be best if you had a solid plan that works on the best possible strategy to handle such incidences. All professional companies develop an incident response plan. This plan ensures that every single staff member responds promptly and efficiently. This document must cover the following points: 

  • An easy-to-understand and a step-by-step set of instructions about how you can react in case of a DDoS attack.
  • How to maintain business operations.
  • Go-to staff members and key stakeholders.
  • Escalation protocols.
  • Team responsibilities.
  • A checklist of all necessary tools.
  • A list of mission-critical systems.

Business continuity needs immense potential for efficiently handling or reacting to unexpected events. 

  • Ensure High Levels of Network Security

Network security is one of the most imperative aspects of preventing DDoS attacks. Attackers cannot do anything if they do not have sufficient time to pile up the requests. So, any network must develop the ability to identify fake requests early. 

Here is what you must have to ensure the best network security that prevents DDoS attempts.

  • You must have firewalls and intrusion detection systems. 
  • Secondly, you should have anti-virus and anti-malware software. These tools should be capable enough to detect and remove viruses and malware.
  • Also, you should have a reliable mechanism to ensure endpoint security. It ensures that network endpoints (desktops, laptops, mobile devices, etc.) do not serve as an entry point for malicious activity.
  • Web-based threats are also widespread. You should have web security tools that handle web-based threats, find known attack signatures, and block abnormal traffic.
  • Spoofing is also an essential concern for network security. Arrange tools that stop it by checking a source address consistent with the origin address.  

Also, your hardware should be ready to tackle traffic spikes. It includes routers, load-balancers, Domain Name Systems (DNS), etc. So how can you spot the weakness in the system before a hacker? Well, vulnerability assessment and penetration testing can help you.

  • Have Server Redundancy

Why is reliance on multiple distributed servers a good strategy from a security point of view? It is because attacking all servers at the same time is not easy for hackers. So even if they successfully launch an attack on one hosting device, others will still be safe. They will handle the traffic, and meanwhile, you can start working to restore the targeted system. 

The best strategy would be to host servers at data centers and colocation facilities in different regions. This way, there will be no bottlenecks or any single point of failure. Also, you can use content delivery networks. We know that DDoS attacks intend to overload the server. CDN can help you by sharing the load equally across many distributed servers.

  • Look Out for the Warning Signs

Quick identification is always the first sure step of remedy. Then, you can respond on time and control the damage.

If you are experiencing one or more of the following signs, it is probably a DDoS attack:

  • Bad connectivity, slow performance, and crashes
  • Unbelievably high demand for a particular single page or endpoint
  • Unusual and suspicious traffic from a single or a small group of IP addresses

However, DDoS attacks will not always come with higher traffic levels. You may perceive a low-volume attack with short duration as a random event, but it could be just a test. Or, they may serve as a diversion from a dangerous breach. So, you must be a keen observer and detect low-volume attacks that are the preamble to actual devastating attacks.

You may organize security awareness programs within the organization to educate your staff. These programs should educate them enough to catch the signs of DDoS attacks. Hence, you do not have to wait until a security team member tells you about it.

  • Continuous Monitoring of Network Traffic

Continuous monitoring is one of the most effective methods. You can easily detect traces of DDoS activity in real time. Here are the benefits of constant monitoring:

  • You will always be able to detect an attack before it has the chance to destroy you. This is not possible without real-time monitoring. 
  • All-time monitoring develops a strong understanding of network activity and traffic patterns in teams. When you know about everyday operations, seeing odd activities will be no big deal.
  • You can even know about the attacks after office hours or on weekends.

CM tools can reach out to admins or follow a predefined set of instructions in the event of an attack. It depends on the setup. 

  • Limit Network Broadcasting

In most cases, hackers send requests to all devices on your network. This way, they try their best to amplify the attack's impact as much as possible. One good way is to limit network broadcasting among devices. It will help you disrupt a high-volume DDoS attempt. Also, you can instruct employees to disable echo and charged services.

  • Leverage the Cloud to Prevent DDoS Attacks

It is vital to use in-premises hardware and software to counter DDoS threats. But luckily, the exact capacity limitations do not exist in cloud-based mitigation. So you can have cloud-based protection to tackle major volumetric DDoS attacks easily.

One excellent option is to outsource DDoS prevention to cloud providers. Here are some of its incredible benefits. 

  • Best cybersecurity, top firewalls, and excellent threat monitoring software.
  • The bandwidth of the public cloud is greater than that of the private network. 
  • High network redundancy with multiple copies of data, systems, and equipment.

As a business, you would have two different options for setting up cloud-based DDoS protection:

  • On-demand cloud DDoS mitigation: Services start working right after the detection of a threat. Providers divert all traffic to cloud resources, so you do not go offline.
  • Always-on cloud DDoS protection: In this case, the system routes all traffic through a cloud scrubbing center (at the cost of minor latency). If you have a mission-critical app and downtime is not acceptable in any case, this is the best option.  

How much you have to rely on cloud providers for cloud-based DDoS protection depends on your team's knowledge.  

Conclusion: Do Not Overlook the DDoS Threat

DDoS threats are becoming not only more dangerous but also prevalent. According to experts, the annual number may rise as high as 15.4 million by 2023. So, if you have an online business, you will encounter it at some point, so make it your top priority to prepare for this.

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