With increasing technological advancement, most of the world’s resources have shifted online, including education and business. However, there has also been an increase in online crimes.
DDoS, or distributed denial of service attack, is one of the most frequent forms of cyber attack. It can cause numerous issues to the server, which can result in it slowing down or even crashing.
The increasing use of technology also increases the need for security.
What Is DDOS?
A DDoS attack means distributed denial of service attack, one of the many types of cyber crimes. In this attack, the server is flooded with unwanted and fake traffic. A DDoS attack is made with the help of numerous computer systems of online devices that are compromised as traffic sources.
A DDoS attack can be described as a traffic jam preventing the wanted traffic from reaching the destination (or, in this case, the server). While this attack does not affect the security of a server, it can cause multiple issues and losses when a server is under attack.
The unwanted traffic will prevent genuine customers from accessing the website, resulting in business and money loss. In addition to that, it can also be used as a way to take down a competitor’s business, shut down a site, or cause harm to the security servers.
How Does A Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attack Work?
A distributed denial of service attack is a cyber threat that aims to bring down a network or web server by bombarding it with excessive requests. Denial of service (DoS) occurs when server capacity is reached by traffic, and the server is not able to reply to valid requests from valid users.
Multiple requests can be made by multiple servers or computers working together. These servers are computerized systems and are attack vectors that work under the command of one user. These computers form a group referred to as a botnet, where each server is called a bot. The main job of this botnet is to send a huge rush of traffic to a site.
The machines could be dispersed across a wide area: laptops, mobile devices, PCs, servers, or Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets. Such remotely controlled devices may number in the tens of thousands or even the millions in a botnet. By exploiting security flaws and infecting the gadgets with malware without the owners’ awareness, attackers can compromise the devices.
How To Identify A Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attack?
It is essential to identify the issue to find a cure. Therefore, identifying a DDoS attack can reduce the time needed to solve the issue. Hence, there are few noticeable symptoms of a DDoS attack.
A DDoS attack leads to a large amount of fake traffic to the targeted server, making accessibility difficult for genuine customers. Therefore, an unusual spike in malicious traffic can be a prominent indicator of a DDoS attack.
Another way to identify a DDoS attack can be a crashing of the site or a delayed response from the site. Additionally, further analysis with the help of traffic analysis tools can be of help.
The easiest way to identify a DDoS is to check if the traffic is from a single IP address or if the DDoS attackers have similar information such as single geolocation, same webpage, or device. Getting unusual traffic at hours, like in the middle of the night, can also be a big sign of a DDoS attack.
There are many DDoS attacks with different indications discussed in detail below.
What Problems Does A Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attack Cause?
The main function behind a DDoS is to flood a site with a huge amount of traffic. While it may cause an issue for a little while, there may be more issues than just the site crashing.
A DDoS attack can distract the site owner and be used as a decoy to hack into, weaken the system, or download malware. The server can also become a slave to the commands of the attacker.
Some DDoS attacks aim to threaten the owners with a ransom. Attackers can hack the system after distracting the staff with DDoS and then threatening to launch a full attack if a certain amount is not paid.
Types Of Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attacks
Distributed Denial of Service attacks are malicious attempts when a group of systems floods a server with fraudulent traffic. This raid causes the targeted service to be useless, which can last several hours. There are many popular and rising attack methods by hackers and hack activists, mainly because of how simple they are.
An Internet connection is constructed with various segments or layers. For example, you start with the basics when constructing a house. So in every layer, the model has a distinct function.
There are seven different layers:
Physical Layer 1
This layer involves communication between different devices and supports mechanical interfaces relating to the physical medium.
Datalink Layer 2
This is the second layer that moves data and messages from a physical link in a network.
Network Layer 3
This layer determines where the data routing will take place.
Transport Layer 4
This layer transfers data between end users, delivering reliable data transfer to the upper layers.
Session Layer 5
This is the layer that controls the connections between devices.
Presentation Layer 6
Also known as the syntax layer, it is where data encryption occurs.
Application Layer 7
This layer deals with human-computer communication. Applications connect with the network services.
Furthermore, cybercriminals have developed three general DDoS attack types over the years, which are discussed below.
General Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS)Attacks
This traditional DDoS attack employs methods to jam a target network’s bandwidth with hefty traffic packets to inundate the network bandwidth. In simpler terms, it creates a traffic blockage to restrict legitimate traffic flow from the target site. These include ICMP and UDP floods and other spoof floods, and volume is calculated in Bps (bits per second).
These attacks are specifically designed to exhaust and exploit the server of firewall resources. They consume the processing capability of the network infrastructure, like firewalls, load balancers, and servers, by attacking layer 3 and 4 protocol communications with hostile connection recommendations. It contains fragmentation attacks, Ping of Death attacks, SYN floods, Smurf attacks, and more. It is calculated in Pps (packets per second).
These are the most serious and sophisticated attacks that affect web applications rather than the whole network. They make use of the weakness in the application layer and open connections. These application attacks will start the procedure and transaction requests that deplete finite resources such as available memory and disk space.
Moreover, these attacks are particularly hard to prevent and mitigate and relatively easy to orchestrate. It has Low & Slow attacks, GET and POST floods, and attacks on Windows and Apache. The volume is calculated in Rps (Requests per second).
In the real world, the attackers will likely use a combination of these attacks to deliver maximum damage.
Let’s discuss the specific DDoS attack styles.
Specific Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attack Types
SYN Flood Attack
This common type of protocol attack exploits a known weakness in the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection line, also called the three-ways-handshake, where the host device accepts a synchronized notification to start a TCP connection. The server then acknowledges the initiation by responding with an SYN-ACK response from that host, which seals the link. In SYN flood, copied messages are transmitted, and the connection does not close, crashing the service.
ICMP The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP PING) Floods
Quite similar in principle to the UDP flood attack, an ICMP flood dominates the targeted resource with ICMP echo request (ping) packets, typically transmitting packets instantly, not giving any time for responses until the service is overwhelmed. This attack can destroy incoming and outgoing bandwidth because the target’s servers usually try to respond with ICMP Ping Reply, causing the general system to slow down.
User Datagram Protocol Flood
A UDP attack is a DDoS attack that strikes its prey with UDP data packets. UDP is one of the most common types of volumetric attacks. Random ports of the remote host are flooded until the service is overwhelmed. The host constantly reviews the application, and when none is discovered, it gradually drains the host’s resources, making it out of reach.
Ping Of Death Attack
A Ping of Death (POD) is a denial of service raid in which the cyber attacker tries to dominate a device with The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo ping packets, rendering the target unavailable to regular traffic. When the invasion traffic comes from numerous devices, the attack will become a DDoS attack.
The data collected from these pings are immaterial and insignificant but aim to destroy the target’s bandwidth with its magnitude. The criminal here aims to manipulate known vulnerabilities in the system with typically larger bytes, forcing it to crash. 20 years ago, Ping of Death was a widespread DDoS attack; however, it is now quite ineffective.
In an HTTP flood, the criminal exploits legitimate GET and POST to attack an application or a server. HTTP floods are more prevalent types of attacks where the attacker uses normal user activity like the URL of documents or pictures. HTTP floods typically use less bandwidth than different methods but can force the server into using maximum resources.
Slowloris is where the criminal uses a few resources in the attacks. Still, this highly targeted attack enables one web server to remove another web server easily, even without affecting other services or ports on the target network. Slowloris does this by holding open a lot of connections with HTTP flooding. It constantly sends more HTTP headers without actually completing any request.
The target server keeps all the false connections open until, eventually, overflows the maximum concurrent connection pool and leads to the denial of additional connections from legitimate clients. With Slowloris, a DDoS mitigation attack is extremely challenging.
What Can Prevent A Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attack?
You can take certain steps to stop a DDoS attack, including designing a capable system with monitoring capabilities. This can catch DDoS attacks prematurely. Furthermore, some preventive steps can delay and reduce DDoS traffic. Strong and capable network components can accommodate attack strategies that make traffic loads more than normal. DDoS attacks can also be avoided by having more bandwidth, consulting a DDoS mitigation specialist, or contacting your ISP or hosting provider. A DDoS response plan can be implemented, including creating a task force to remediate DDoS attacks and establishing communication strategies during an invasion. In addition, ensure all the necessary planning and research are complete and are sufficient for future attacks.
Solutions For Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS)Attacks
While a typical DDoS attack does not affect the security of a website, it strongly affects the site’s business. A DDoS attack either crashes the site and becomes inaccessible or makes it difficult for the customers to access the site. As a result, when looking for a solution, the main concern is to differentiate between fake and genuine traffic.
In today’s modern and advanced world, many tools can help with the identification process, but it all comes down to the complexity of the attack. A simple DDoS attack might be easy to understand as it might originate from the same IP address, device, or location. But a more advanced attack will seamlessly mix with the genuine traffic, which will be impossible to identify.
One of the most basic and sought-after solutions is to create a black hole where all the traffic is directed. This strategy to mitigate DDoS attacks can be unfiltered, creating a black hole for all the users, or you can filter the traffic to direct only unwanted traffic.
This is a defense strategy and not the perfect solution, as it helps the attacker in their intent to make the site inaccessible.
Another effective way to fight against a DDoS attack is to limit the amount of traffic. It can slow down the rate and hence provide time which you can use to find a more useful defense strategy or separate the traffic.
A web application firewall is one of the most secure ways to fight against a DDoS attack. It is a secure wall for DDoS protection between the user and the site. It uses a list of security protocols and features such as DDoS tools to filter out unwanted traffic, ensuring that the site remains safe from harm.
The anycast network is a mitigation way to make the traffic more manageable. It divides the coming users into smaller groups and scatters them across the network to make it more hassle-free and manageable; it is like dividing a river into smaller tributaries.
You can closely monitor the smaller group of users in the web servers to ensure no harmful network or hacker is trying to cause any harm. It also serves as a better option than shutting down the network, as that would make the site inaccessible for both legitimate users and DDoS botnets and cause a loss in business.
Although it is almost impossible to be safe from a DDoS attack as they are the easiest and most frequent form of cybercrime, there are many ways in which you can prevent them.
Motivation For Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) Attacks
Cyber crimes have become a way in which many people express their feelings concerning a site or a company. For instance, modern DDoS attacks have been made by hackers that use DDoS as a façade to crash sites against their thoughts or motivation. There are many examples of such acts, like the 2015 DDoS attacks against ISIS, attacks against the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the Brazilian government, and the World Cup sponsor in 2014. These examples give an idea of how DDoS has been used and how to prevent it.
The most probable reason for major DDoS attacks is competition. Due to many companies promoting or selling the same product, DDoS is a way people use to put down their competitive sites. Due to the high traffic, the site may crash, making it difficult for the clients to access it. This unprecedented traffic and malfunctioning site will decrease the business and shift the client to other sites. The motivation for DDoS is to shift the business to their sites by forcing people to access them instead. Even if the client doesn’t wish to shift, the brand image will be tarnished due to an inaccessible site.
Politics is also a reason for increased cybercrimes. The government uses DDoS as a way to attack other official sites. As the new form of conversation is through the internet, many political parties, political figures, and government officials use an official page to relay all the important information to the public. These sites may also include the recent election and instructions regarding any state emergency. If users cannot access these sites, it can lead to a disruption in public.
Attacking online is a safe way to take revenge for several reasons, and it is also difficult to track the exact person responsible for it.
The added advantage is the availability of many professional online hackers willing to attack sites for a price. There have been many cases, mainly DDoS, as a way to seek revenge. Former employees have tried to cause an issue for their ex-workplace sites. DDoS is an effective way to affect a business and its reputation.
A DDoS does not bring much harm to the sites. Specifically, it does not cause a security breach. But it can be used as a decoy. Having a complex DDoS on a site will give all the attention to solving the issue in any possible way, and in the meanwhile, an attack can be performed on the company or site’s security, causing major harm.
Lastly, it is a possibility that there is no major reason behind an attack. It might be some new hacker practicing their skill or someone playing a prank. It can also result from bets between friends to hack and crash a site. So even though we look for reasons behind these attacks, there is possibly no real motive behind them.
No matter the reason, it is a company’s or a site’s responsibility to ensure that all the safety measures have been taken. The most important safety measure will be a web application firewall. As discussed above, a web application firewall will take all the necessary measures and ensure that all the traffic received is genuine for the site and not fake.