The acronym DDoS stands for “Distributed Denial of Service”. Basically, a DDoS attack is performed by a person which has control over a large number of different systems (hundreds/thousands also called a botnet) and that person uses them for flooding the bandwidth available to a given IP address (your server IP address, for example).
The end result of such an attack (flooding) is that your ability (the victim) to send or receive packets of data is destroyed. In other words, the flooding denies your service to the internet. A DDOS attack is performed by various methods, like overloading your bandwidth in such way that data can’t pass through, but the methods used are not actually important. The idea is that your internet connection will become useless for at least a few minutes, while the attack is underway. Obviously, it all depends on the duration of the attack.
Usually, the person performing the DDOS attack uses a rented/hacked botnet instead of having physical access to the computers used for flooding.
How do you know you are a victim of a DDOS attack?
Well, this is a tricky question. An absolute answer to this question is next to impossible; there is no easy way to determine if somebody is flooding you, unless your Internet connection goes down for no particular reason. Usually, in a DDOS attack you’re experiencing latency problems, not a total cut –off .
Keep in mind that certain types of businesses are the usual targets of DDOS attacks, for example gaming , hacking and porn websites. Torrent download sites and websites promoting a controversial point of view also are known for attracting unwanted attention. Because these types of websites are prone to attacks, many web hosting companies are avoiding them like the plague. In case you’re using a web host that allows such types of clients, your business may also suffer in case of a DDOS attack against the respective web host, even if the attack is totally unrelated to you.
There are quite a few signs that could indicate a DDOS attack:
- If you find yourself having trouble with your internet connection while you’re competing against the same person (i.e. during an online game)/business.
- If you’re running an online business and someone is asking you for money, saying that the attack will stop after you pay him, this could indicate almost surely a “mercenary” type of DDOS attack.
- If you discover random internet connection problems after you clicked on a dubious link, that also may be a sign of a DDOS attack.
- Another symptom is when you get disconnected during an online game, and your ISP is telling you (multiple times) that you’re the only one with that problem in the area.
If you’re running your own server, the best way to determine that you’re under a DDOS attack is to familiarize yourself with the typical inbound internet traffic; a DDOS attack represents a sharp spike in it and you’ll be able to tell the difference between a surge in the number of visitors of your website(for example) and an attack.
The best way to deal with this problem is to prevent it.
How to protect yourself from a DDOS attack?
The easiest method is to use a VPN in order to mask your real IP address. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it is used to “spoof” your real IP address while surfing the internet. VPN works by putting a middle man (IP) between your internet connection and the websites you’re visiting. This is a 100% fool proof method, if someone is DDOS-ing you, it’s the middle man who takes the hit. The downside of VPNs is that they increase your network latency. There are low-latency- premium VPN services, but they will cost you.
If you’re running a server/business, you should overprovision bandwidth (though this will not stop a well coordinated DDOS) and contact your ISP immediately, as soon as you realize that you’re under attack and ask them for help.
Keep in mind that your business will be better protected against a DDOS attack if your web servers are located in a dedicated hosting center because these have a higher bandwidth than a “home based” internet business and also their staff is experienced in dealing with DDOS issues.
In case of large scale DDOS attacks, you should call an expert company, like CloudFlare or DNS Anycast. These guys are the specialists when it comes to DDOS mitigation.