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Denial of service (DOS) attacks and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are issues of concern for businesses because it results in loss in revenue from disrupted services. At the outset, let us try to understand what these terms DOS and DDoS mean.

Denial of service

In simple terms denial of service or DOS means a tactic that stops a website from running. The result is, the website stops displaying content or prevents it from operating on the internet appropriately. The attack can be for any duration and can strike more than one site at a time. The attack becomes a distributed denial of attack (DDoS) when the attacks originate from more than one computer. It is a network based attempt that makes a website or an inclusive infrastructure unavailable.

Media companies are most often the target because they depend on IP based production and frequently offer their services on the internet.

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Why do these happen?

It is criminal or illegal to launch a DOS or DDOS attack, but they happen anyway. While the criminal aspect is apparent, the motivations are not always clear. One example of a high profile attack was in 2014 when a hacking group pulled down Sony and Microsoft gaming services on Christmas day. Millions of people could not make use of their games consoles as disruptions played havoc after a cyber attack.This was in fact DDoS that overloaded both Microsoft and Sony gaming services by generating fake access services.

The hacker claimed to be from Lizard Squad, a 22year old who was audacious enough to say he did it just to prove he can. It is apparent that denying an internet service can have severe repercussions on different types of organizations. Targets of severe attacks include countries Estonia and Burma. They suffered attacks from a botnet known as Conficker resulting in their entire internet capabilities getting crippled.

Conficker is a quick spreading worm that attacks vulnerability in Windows operating systems. It has the potential to create spam, perform identity theft, phishing exploits and several other malicious activities. Unfortunately committing DOS or DDoS attacks are not very difficult. According to an expert “all it takes is a laptop and few dollars” to apply DDoS techniques. All that is required is an internet search that can guide you step by step on how to do it. You need not even have a high degree of expertise. It is no wonder criminals make use of this strategy for ransom in return for normal service.

Interestingly, DDoS attacks have valid uses. Certain vendors legitimately offer DDoS attacks for network testing purposes. Such simulation assists companies in finding shortcomings and test responses for business continuity. It must be borne in mind that the service providers’ solutions may not be adequate for most of the types of damaging attacks and may not provide preemptive reconnaissance and AET protection.

How to know if a DDoS attack is underway?

US-CERT or the United States Computer Readiness Emergency Team has provided key guidelines on how to determine if an attack is imminent.

  • If the network performance degrades, especially when trying to open files stored on websites.
  • Failure to open a particular website
  • Problems opening any website
  • A higher than the customary volume of spam mail

There are newer DDoS techniques to watch out for. Such attacks include badly secured and unpatched IoT (Internet of Things) plug-and-play devices. These are highly vulnerable to traffic spikes. With threats always around the corner, network administrators and IT professionals must jointly work toward better security and DDoS mitigation. Despite the fact that several technologies exist to prevent various types of DDoS attacks, preventing one is a huge challenge.

Regardless of whichever solution it has put in place, every business must have the following DDoS mitigation checklist.

Visible mitigation

It makes sense for any mitigation technology to allow users continue to get access to your site without impediment. They must not receive outdated cached content. If DDoS attackers believe the attacks are overlooked, they are not likely to return.

Be prepared for the worst

Network attacks are getting bigger and trickier by the day. Make sure that your website absorbs a random amount of traffic. With service providers this should not be a problem because they have huge capacity data centers to distribute traffic among them.

Focus on accurate detection

There are two elements in DDoS mitigation.

  • Detecting your website is under attack
  • Applying the right defensive solution

It is quite common for detection to get overlooked. Your solution must be capable of accurately detecting the DDoS attack, but at the same time must remain dormant when the site is safe.

To summarize

DDoS attacks are serious issues to online services and can cost significant revenue loss. Businesses of all sizes must take this threat seriously and adopt a mitigation strategy thoroughly.

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