Whether you’re running a company brochure site, an e-commerce platform, or just a personal blog, online crime is a real present danger to web admins. One of the most common and most potent types of cyberattack is Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS for short.
DDoS attacks are damaging because they can grind a network service or connectivity to a halt in seconds, completely disabling services to users.
Perhaps the worst attack occurred in 2016 on Domain Name System (DNS) provider Dyn, which rendered popular, well-known services including Twitter, the New York Times, Airbnb, Amazon, and PayPal redundant for several hours during three separate assaults over a day.
All web services are prone to suffering a DDoS attack.
It would be folly to think DDoS attacks are just aimed at industry-leading players. Rather, cybercriminals can target everything from the smallest hobbyist website right up to global service providers.
Indeed, in the first half of 2020 alone, it was estimated there were 4.83 million DDoS globally – a 15% jump on the previous year. So in truth, if your site hasn’t been hit by a DDoS attack already, chances are it will be at some point in the future.
Basic security steps to protect against a DDoS attack
As with most things in life, knowledge is power and understanding what DDoS is and how an attack works will help you identify potential problem areas with your current setup.
Check online for resources to have DDoS explained so you can recognize the risks of an attack – and the methods most commonly employed by cybercriminals. Meanwhile, below are some relatively simple precautions you can take to mitigate the risks posed by DDoS.
#1. Have a clear plan of action for dealing with a DDoS attack
DDoS attackers typically strike quickly, leaving little time for ad hoc planning. So instead, think ahead about what steps you’ll take and who you’ll need to contact in the event of an attack (for example, your hosting company, relevant data centers, your IT security provider, etc.).
It would be best if you also thought about how you’ll inform your clients of an attack to reduce any damage to your firm’s reputation.
#2. Audit your current network infrastructure
At a minimum, you should ensure your web services have a firewall, anti-spam protection, and load-balancing. Also, partnering with a cloud-based provider will offer increased peace of mind should you become the target of an attack.
Cloud services are operated by system engineers who are specifically trained to recognize DDoS attacks and stay on top of current tactics used by online criminals.
You should also ensure your systems are up to date and running the latest versions of software and, where possible, have backup servers ready to deal with the additional load caused by an attack (ideally located in different places geographically).
#3. Be aware of the typical warning signs
If you experience network slowdown or intermittent problems reaching your website, there is a chance you may be suffering a DDoS attack and should investigate further. An increase in spam email can also be a sign of an attack.
#4. Practice basic network security
While there is no sure-fire way to prevent a DDoS attack, sensible security measures like using alphanumeric passwords (and changing them regularly), employing anti-phishing protection, always using a secure firewall, and connecting via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help reduce the risks.
None of these measures will stop a DDoS attack entirely – but they will nonetheless help minimize the dangers when you’re online. It would be best to use multi-layer security and keep a close eye on your network and website to ensure the early detection of any problems.