What’s A DDoS Attack & How Does It Work?

DDoS attack

What is a DDoS attack? Also known as distributed denial-of-service attacks, DDoS attacks typically involve a network of compromised computer systems, called bots and botnets, being used to attack a target, e.g., websites and servers, which then causes a denial of service for users. This means you won’t be able to access that network resource to carry out your daily routines.

In some situations, however, DDoS-like results can be caused by generally unstable systems, poor coding, and missing patches. Yes, even in the presence of legitimate requests. Let’s find out more about DDoS attacks and how it works:

Understanding the Common Types of DDoS Attacks

The three common DDoS attacks are:

  • Application layer attacks: Designed to overload application services and databases by executing a high volume of application calls.
  • Protocol attacks: Overwhelm targeted resources by exploiting flaws in the transport layer and network layer protocols.
  • Volumetric or network-centric attacks: Use packet floods to consume available bandwidth of targeted resource, causing it to overload.

It’s important to note that the target of a DDoS attack is not the only victim. Many other victims (other owners of other systems) may have been used to facilitate the attack. In addition, a majority of affected individuals are typically unaware that their systems have been compromised.

In addition, DDoS attackers comprise diverse threat actors, ranging from government agencies, an organized crime ring, or individual criminal hackers.

Explaining How DDoS Attacks Work

Let’s use a typical DDoS attack. The hacker first exploits a vulnerability in one computer system and makes it the DDoS master. From there he or she will control other vulnerable systems by infecting them with malware. Some hackers may even find a way to bypass the authentication controls of the other systems.

An infected network device or computer is identified as a zombie or bot. A botnet is formed when the attacker (now the botmaster) creates a command-and-control server to control a network of bots. It could comprise tens or hundreds of thousands of bots (nodes), which are then used to flood a targeted domain and rendering it inaccessible.

What do hackers actually send over a botnet? It could be a flood of malformed packets, connection requests, or incoming messages. These things are designed to force the target system to shut down, crash, or slow down. Even if you are a legitimate user, you will be denied the service you seek.

How to Guard Against DDoS Attacks

The lasting effect of DDoS attacks are known to create significant business risks, and that’s why it is imperative that IT and security managers and administrators, as well as their business partners/executives/associates, understand the risks, vulnerabilities, and threats associated with such attacks.

You should not wait until you are on the receiving end of a DDoS attack. By then, it is practically impossible to stop it. During times of peace, you should actively perform security assessments on a regular basis, use network security controls, resolve any denial of service-related vulnerabilities, as well as work closely with cloud-based IT experts who specialized in responding to DDoS attacks.

With that in mind, other ways to minimize your contribution to DDoS attacks across the web, include proactive network alerting and monitoring, increasing user awareness of email phishing, and implement solid patch management practices.