What Is A DDoS Attack?

What is DDoS?

DDoS attacks are becoming more and more common these days.  Understanding what one is can help to protect yourself from one.  This is not meant to be a “How to I do a DDoS Attack”, I intend it to be an explanation for the masses to understand in as simple terms as possible.

A Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attack is an extremely common method used by an attacker to bring down a service, such as a website, by sending it more requests than it can handle.

So let’s dig a bit deeper into that.  I will use a website as an example, although a website is not the only thing that can be affected by a DDoS attack.

Any website out there is hosted on a server.  A server is just a computer like any other, but it has special software on it which allows users to connect to it and load the website on it.  So, like any other software on your computer, this requires the software taking up a certain amount of that computers resources such as memory and processing power.  Every computer will only have a certain amount of resources to give, and once it’s hit that limit, it starts to struggle and go slow.  This is similar to your home PC when you’re running too many programs or you have a virus and your computer is running slow.

Computers which are serving websites to people will be able to deliver a certain amount of requests for websites at one time.  If more people request the website at the same time than the computer can handle, it will start to become slow until it reaches the point where it can’t keep up and will pretty much freeze.  The amount of request that this will take varies depending on the specification of the computer or computers delivering the website and the size and complexity of the website.  A malicious user can use tools available to him to send that computer more requests than it can handle causing it to become unresponsive.

The attacker will be able to control thousands of computer all at once and tell each of them to load the victim website all at the same time.  The computers he will use will be everyday computer like you or me, the attacker will have hidden the software in a game, toolbar or other program which you may have downloaded.  You would be completely unaware that this software is on your computer.  Once it is on your computer, and many other computers, he would connect to all these computers all at once using simple commands, and tell them all to load the target website over and over.  This would very quickly bring down the target website if they do not have any protection against DDoS attacks.

How to protect against a DDoS attack

There are many ways to successfully protect against a DDoS attack.  Your level of technical knowledge and ability will dictate the best method for you.

If you have a website and are worried about a DDoS attack but have a basic knowledge about the web, then speak to the people you get your website from.  They may already have defenses in place to guard against a DDoS attack, or they may be able to offer extra services to help protect your site.

If you are more confident in your technical knowledge then it may be more beneficial to look into your own load balancing solutions.  There are many different options out there based on your setup and potential risk.  There are many third party companies that specialize in helping prevent DDoS attacks.  Do your research, ask lots of questions and pick the right option for you.

It is important to note that you can be the victim of a DDoS attack and not be the intended victim.  If another site on the same server or network as your site then your site could be collateral damage.  The company hosting your website should have procedures in place to guard against this kind of thing, speak to them and make sure that if another site in the same neighborhood as yours is hit, that there are procedures in place to quickly isolate it.

If you have any questions, post in the comments below or Buy Me a Beer 🙂