There are no shortage of different forms of cyber attack, but one of the worst is what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Designed to make a website or internet service inaccessible to legitimate users, DDoS attacks work by overwhelming them with a tidal wave of fraudulent traffic. As an analogy, imagine stopping a commuter from being able to reach their home by setting up signs to redirect all car traffic in the area down a particular residential street. At a certain point, traffic slows to a standstill and the people who genuinely live on that street are unable to enter it. Gridlock ensues.
DDoS attacks continue to be an enormous problem. In August, reports surfaced about the biggest-ever attempted DDoS attack: a behemoth that added up to 17.2 million requests-per-second, making it three times bigger than previous reported attacks. The traffic came from a “botnet” of upward of 20,000 infected internet devices around the world, which were harnessed and redirected to a particular target, like the cars in the analogy.
In this case, the target was a financial firm. However, DDoS is certainly not limited to those within the world of finance. In fact, a June 2021 study found that financial firms account for less than 1 percent of attacked industries. The most widely attacked industry, perhaps unsurprisingly, involved IT firms, which account for 83.2% of attack. After this, the games industry represents 8.8% of all attacks, while the gambling industry suffers 5.5% of attacks, the business world 1.75% of attacks, and finance, at fifth place, with 0.8% of DDoS attacks.
But when you’re talking about widespread attacks such as DDoS, even small percentages can be considerable. The hard truth is that, whichever industry you are in, others in your industry (if not your own organization) have likely been hit with attempted or actual DDoS attacks. Broadcasters, schools, hospitals, garden centers, libraries, accountancy firms, newspapers, and just about every other enterprise or public organization you can think of have all, at times, suffered such attacks.
Reasons can vary from attempts to extort money (usually by threatening a worse DDoS attack to follow a smaller “sample” one) to just attackers trying to cause chaos. In August, a gym in Toronto, Canada was hit with a DDoS attack that resulted in its website briefly being knocked offline. The reason, reportedly, was because it had announced that it would only provide entry to those who had received both COVID-19 vaccinations. Malicious attackers had therefore decided to take revenge in the form of a malicious cyber attack.
The results of DDoS attacks can be devastating for organizations. An online platform that can’t be reached means loss of productivity for the company that owns or runs it. Since attackers may carefully time DDoS attacks for maximum impact, this can mean that the attack hits at the worst possible moment. If the service in question is a web shop, this can mean a turnover decline. In the event that it is, for instance, an online game server, this could mean customers being annoyed that they cannot access a resource they may have paid for.
Even if they haven’t paid out money, however, a DDoS attack could nonetheless drive potential customers into the arms of a rival service. As a result, it could have long-term damage that continues long after the website or service is back online.
Unfortunately, DDoS attacks are becoming more widespread — both due to the increased emphasis on online services (thereby making it clear to attackers how significant an attack could be) and the ease with which such attacks can now be performed. It’s possible to rent a botnet for carrying out DDoS attacks for just a few dollars. This lowers the barrier to entry for would-be attackers, opening up the field for attacks on not only large firms but also smaller businesses like the aforementioned Toronto gym.
Any organization that takes cyber security seriously should invest in the right tools to safeguard against DDoS attacks. Anti-DDoS tools work by seeking out malicious traffic and halting it in its tracks. It does this while continuing to allow legitimate, genuine requests through to reach their desired destination. In other words, DDoS protective measures stop bad actors — but do so without inconveniencing good actors. Other tools for safeguarding against DDoS are able to absorb massive DDoS attacks without the service in question collapsing under the weight of the attack.
No organization is safe from being targeted by DDoS attackers. Such attacks are going to continue to ramp up as well. But just like no house is safe from being eyeballed by burglars — but many have the security systems to prevent such attacks taking place — organizations can take proactive steps to keep themselves safe.
There is no better time to invest in anti-DDoS tools. It’s one of the smartest post-pandemic investments that can be made.
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