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DDoS Attack Guide

DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attacks is a kind of cyberattack that relies on a variety of techniques to stop the end-user from accessing a website or online service. DDoS attacks have become more popular recently as more and more organizations succumb to their effects.

DDoS attacks are no longer only relevant to the largest of enterprises. SMBs and even some private individuals, such as online streamers are popular targets of these attacks.

Today, we’ll be going through what DDoS attacks are, how they can affect you, and how you can prevent them.

What Is A DDoS Attack?

A DDoS attack works by using multiple devices in order to flood a network or server with traffic so much that they are rendered inoperable.

These attacks usually begin with malicious agents compromising multiple IoT devices(this includes objects like PCs, routers, etc.) and infecting them with malware. Once a device has been infected this way, and the hackers have enough control over the end device, they can prepare for a DDoS attack. This bulk of compromised devices is referred to as a botnet.

The botnet is then used to send signals to the end network repeatedly. This then overloads the RAM and CPU resources of the targeted network or server. At best, this leads to clogging, at worst, it leads to a complete shutdown.

How Long Can A DDoS Attack Last?

A DDoS attack can last from a few minutes to entire weeks. Some kinds of DDoS attacks will take a while to amass a large enough botnet to overwhelm a network. Other kinds can accomplish this quickly, however, they tend to last for a short amount of time.

Radware has noted that about 30% of all cyberattacks last for less than one hour. However, DDoS attacks have been reported to last for up to 330 hours, or 14 days. This means there is a lot of variances when it comes to determining the duration of a DDoS attack.

What Kinds of DDoS Attacks Are There?

Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of DDoS attacks:

  1. Application Layer These attacks tend to target software that provides a given service like an APache Server. Alternatively, these attacks can target any application provided through a cloud provider. These attacks are the most common kind of DDoS attack and are also called Layer 7 attacks.
  2. Protocol/Volumetric This kind of DDoS attack is designed to siphon the resources of a server or network-based device. When these devices are overloaded, their balancers are loaded. These attacks involve tampering with the network and transport layer in OSI/RM (or layers 3 and 4). This is the 2nd most often encountered kind of DDoS attack.

These attacks target different OSI/RM layers, meaning that they are quite different in structure, as well as in how they’re hidden and fought against.

DDoS attacks can also be grouped into two categories by how long they last:

  • Long-Term A Long-term DDoS attack lasts for hours or days. An example of this is the 3-day long attack on AWS that led to millions of dollars in damages.
  • Burst Burst DDoS attacks are more common and last for a much shorter time, a few minutes or even seconds.

Generally, long-term attacks are much harder to pull off than burst ones. Furthermore, burst attacks are much harder to track, which is why they’re much more common than long-term attacks.

How Do DDoSers Avoid Detection?

One of the reasons DDoS attacks are such a common form of cyberattack is because they’re very difficult to pin down. Attackers can easily hide between the thousands of requests sent by their botnet. However, clever attackers will use further tactics to avoid being brought down.

  • Spoofing IPv4 and IPv6 generally don’t have the capability to authenticate or trace traffic to their source. In the case of IPv4 networks, it’s very easy to spoof the source and destination address and disguise an attack this way. DDoSers use this to fake packets with a nonsensical source address. Because of this, it’s quite simple for attackers to fool actual devices into being forced to respond to those packets.
  • Reflection An attacker will want to hide their involvement with a DDoS attack even after it’s done. They usually do this by tricking online services so that the services themselves are hiding their identity. For this, they will use one of the hundreds of available DNS(Domain Name System), SNMP(Simple Network Management,) or NTP(Network Time Protocol) servers.
  • Since these services can not only give traffic but also make it even harder to track the attacker due to most servers not logging the services that use them diligently, reflection is a difficult tactic to fight against.
  • Amplification Ιnvolves generating a large amount of traffic by taking advantage of a source multiplier, rather than a botnet. These attacks send a singular forged packet and fool a trustworthy service into sending thousands of replies to their victim of choice. In these cases, it’s crucial to grasp that these attacks take advantage of regular internet operations to conduct their attacks. The malicious agents have simply found a method by which they can exploit this usual behavior.

Motivations Behind DDoS Attacks

In order to formulate strategies to go against DDoS attacks, it’s crucial that we know the motivations behind the attacks.

  • Financial DDoS attacks often come together with ransomware. The attacker will send a message(usually anonymously) telling their victim that they will halt the attack in case they pay them a sum of money. Usually, these attacks are conducted as part of a criminal organization, although these days these can be as small as a dozen members. Occasionally, competing businesses will do this to other businesses.
  • Ideological This kind of attack is motivated by ideology and is used in order to support a political, religious, or cultural interest. Generally, they are used against governments by protestors.
  • State-Sponsored Sometimes, DDoS attacks are used in order to confuse military or civilian organizations during times of political unrest.
  • Business Business-motivated DDOS attacks are led in order to get information or damage a certain industry or economic sector. Attacking multiple companies within an industry can lead to customers losing faith in the industry as a whole.

Fighting Against DDoS Attacks

The main reason DDoS attacks are so effective is because businesses don’t take enough time to educate themselves on how they work and how they can fight against them. If you’re running a high-profile business, you’re almost guaranteed to face a DDoS attack at some point.

Detecting DDoS Attacks

The first step of DDoS mitigation is to have the ability to detect DDoS attacks early on. Having good pattern-recognition capabilities and spotting repetitions that signal a DDoS attack is extremely helpful. AI and cloud services are often used to help with finding a DDoS attack, however, neither of these can replace a skilled IT professional.

Usually, a DDoS attack can be signaled by:

  • Mitigation devices like load balancers or other services show you a critical report
  • Customers reporting that your service is slow or not available
  • Employees facing connection and speed issues
  • A lot of connection requests coming from a single IP address in a short burst
  • A 503 error pops up when you aren’t performing maintenance
  • Ping requests timing out due to TTL(Time to Live)
  • Extremely large traffic spikes

Mitigating A DDoS Attack

DDoS attack mitigation is very different compared to most cyberattacks. Usually, DDoS mitigation is handled by automated devices that have been designed for that purpose. An example of this is load balancers that can find DDoS attack patterns and interfere.

When mitigating a DDoS attack, you should concentrate on having your services and devices in the right place. Since attackers get DDoS traffic by taking advantage of trustworthy systems, all connected servers and devices can be attacked, as they won’t always be recognized. There is a number of steps.

Typical steps for responding to a DDoS attack include:

  1. Find It Early Finding a DDoS attack early on is a great boon in fighting against it. It’s worth noting that rate-based detection is generally outdated, as most modern DDoS attacks bypass it.
  2. Filtering Having a filtering system can help you drop the unwanted traffic generated by a DDoS attack. To do this, most businesses use complex rules settings on their network devices.
  3. Redirection Redirecting the traffic so that it doesn’t impact your most important resources is a great asset to have when facing a DDoS attack. Redirecting it into a scrubbing center or sinkhole can help avoid this. At these times, you should notify your workers and customers that they don’t need to alter their behavior in accordance with the slowness.
  4. Analysis Finding where the DDoS attack originated can be of massive assistance when dealing with a DDoS attack, to help you protect yourself from future ones. Although you might want to go after the botnet, this can be logistically and legally unfeasible.
  5. Alternate Delivery Methods You can use alternate resources that react almost immediately to a DDoS attack to open up new network connections.

How This Is Done

Now, all of these mitigation methods sound simple in theory, however, all of them necessitate cooperation between different areas of your firm, as well as a robust infrastructure in place to prepare for an attack.

Detection

Detection efforts require a combination of a qualified IT professional like a security analyst and penetration testing in order to find Layer 7 attack patterns. Generally, a pen tester will simulate a DDoS attack, and the analyst will listen to them in order to find the necessary identifiers.

Finally, taking advantage of a cloud-based protection service that has DDoS protection can help save valuable manpower.

Filtering & Redirection

By taking advantage of scrubbing centers and similar services, you can redirect or contain DDoS traffic. Oftentimes, these are features like CAPTCHA or cookie challenges. These are intended to make sure that the connection request is coming from an actual user.

You can also forward the packets in question to a security analyst and have them find patterns and recommend future steps for mitigating the attack.

Oftentimes, the same load balancing servers used to properly manage legitimate traffic can also be used to combat DDoS attacks. IT professionals can use load balancers to deflect traffic that comes from specific sources and stop a DDoS attack while it’s underway.

Cloud scrubbing devices are put between the malicious traffic and the network. This traffic is then routed to a different location in order to isolate the damage. The scrubbing center then keeps all genuine traffic and lets it pass on to the destination. Some of the most popular scrubbing centers are Radware and Cloudflare.

Alternate Delivery

Using a content delivery network(CDN) can be of great importance during a DDoS attack. It helps you get more uptime while you divert your resources to deal with the attack. With that being said, outdated or unconfigured mitigation devices can present themselves as part of a problem in an attack.

Since DDoS attacks oftentimes target a single ISP, some businesses rely on having multiple ISP connections so that they can just switch to another one if one becomes targeted.

Closing Words

DDoS attacks are an ever-present threat in today’s, increasingly internet-reliant world. Businesses that are unprepared for them can suffer from massive damages. Now, this is not all you need to know about DDoS attacks, with many specialized tools and methods available, there isn’t enough room to cover everything in one article.

With that being said, learning the principles of what DDoS attacks are, what kinds there are, why attackers commit them, and how to fight against them is crucial for keeping your business safe from harm.

By prioritizing cybersecurity, you’re investing in the future of your business. Although you might not need it immediately, you’ll be immensely grateful to have it when an attack occurs.

How does your business deal against DDoS attacks?

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