According to the World Economic Forum, 2019 was a year where AI played a large role in cyberattacks. We started to see the effects of this at the beginning of 2019 – DDoS attacks increased by 84% in the first part of the year.
Why is this important?
Criminals now use the power of AI to coordinate attacks and identify lucrative targets. While most companies use robust software to protect themselves against ransomware and other malware, many fail to plan for a DDoS attack.
In this post, we’ll look at what DDoS attacks are, why hackers use it, and how to protect yourself.
What is a DDoS Attack?
DDoS attacks occurs when a bot army sends a lot of requests to your website. An easy analogy is a group of protestors picketing outside a store. If there are one or two protestors, it’s little more than an inconvenience. Clients can move around them to get into the store. If, however, there are thousands, they block the entrance, and clients can’t get in.
It works essentially the same way online – your servers receive too many requests to handle. This can, at worst, crash the system, and, at best, slow it to a crawl. Either way, your clients won’t have access to the services that they need. The attack methods differ, but the result is the same.
With many companies using services based in the cloud, these attacks can be lucrative. If a company offering Software as a Service is attacked, they stand to lose a lot of business. Considering that, according to cybercrime statistics, the number of domains online solely for the purpose of hosting botnet C&Cs doubled between 2017 and 2018, there’s cause for concern. This points to a very worrying ramping up of DDoS attacks capacity.
Why do Hackers Use This Form of Attack?
Why do hackers do this? Some might act out of a grudge against the company—others do so purely out of malicious intent. The vast majority, however, have a profit motive in mind.
How Do They Make Money From These Attacks?
If they’re attacking in their own capacity, they often send the company a ransom notice. If the company doesn’t pay up, the attack continues.
Cybercriminals are also very entrepreneurially minded. They’ll rent their bot armies to others to make money.
Now, you’re probably thinking:
“All of this is very interesting, but how do we protect against such attacks?”
Let’s find out.
Defending Against a DDoS Attacks
Your best defense is to be prepared for any potential attacks. Here’s how to get started.
A Security Audit
If you don’t have an IT department, get someone into audit your site’s security. The investment is worthwhile because the audit will point out high-risk areas. You’ll get advice on how to beef up security.
Create a Response Plan
With these types of attacks, a quick response is essential. Create a clear reporting line and assign roles to the correct employees. What steps will everyone take if you detect an attack? Having a plan of this nature helps you to respond fast and minimize damage.
If your system is hosted externally, find out what procedures you should do to notify them in the event of an attack
Create a list of resources and contacts for your response team to access to assist them in combating the attack.
Companies such as Cloud Flare and AWS Shield offer protection against attacks. They’ll help beef up your security and monitor your network. This allows for the early detection of DDoS attacks. The earlier you detect, the easier it is to limit the damage.
Consider using a cloud-based service to protect your company. These services have more bandwidth available than you do. They’re better able to handle malicious traffic because they have better resources.
With a cloud-based service, there’s no need to worry about updating software; it’s all handled for you. Such services require high security for their business. They’ll employ much better security than the average company can afford.
Use a Multi-Layer Approach
Use a multi-layer approach here. Instead of just relying on Cloud Flare, for example, make sure that you have strong firewall protection in place.
Don’t just focus on your servers – what other devices are connected? What about the smart monitor you use in the boardroom? Or the printer? Is your router adequately protected against malware or attacks? These systems may be used to access your system and avoid firewalls.
Once you have these systems in place, be sure to keep the software up to date at all times.
Another good security practice is to block countries where these attacks are most prolific. If you’re a baker in Washington, for example, what good is traffic from Nigeria or Russia doing for you? Consider blocking high-risk countries and those that don’t fall into your target market.
Employ the Best Practices for Network Security
This includes ensuring that passwords are strong, limiting unnecessary access to systems, and reviewing access levels periodically. You know the drill.
Look at Your Network Architecture
What backups do you have in place? In business, redundancies are often considered wasteful. Here they might be essential. If you have three servers and one is attacked, the others can carry the load.
It also makes sense to split your resources. It’s more difficult to complete a coordinated attack on your company’s resources if they’re in different geographical locations.
Know What the Warning Signs Are
If your company is a victim of such an attack, you’ll see some or all of the following:
- A slowed-down network
- Connectivity issues with the intranet internally
- Your website shuts down on and off
All of these could be related to other issues as well. That’s why DDoS attacks may go unnoticed for some time. If you’re noticing these signs, and it’s an ongoing problem, it’s time to see if your company is under attack.
It’s usual for there to be intermittent network issues every once in a while. The hallmark of a DDoS attack is that these issues aren’t resolved quickly.
Wrapping Things Up
DDoS attacks don’t get as much press as ransomware these days, but they can be more dangerous. Ransomware locks you out of your systems. DDoS attacks lock your clients out. By adopting a strong defensive strategy, you present a far less attractive target for hackers and bots.
Read Next: How to Prevent Your Website from XSS Attacks