DDoS attacks – what are they and how can you prevent them

Data Networks

The shift to remote working has seen a major increase in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks with 272% in Europe during the first quarter of 2020 according to reports. Despite many of these attacks being on a small scale, they still can massively disrupt business operations. Hackers have taken advantage of more people using the web to work from home, shopping online or using other online services.

As attacks become more sophisticated and harder to stop, it’s vital that people are aware of how to prevent them.

What is a DDoS attack?

A DDoS attack involves bombarding a website or server with artificial traffic to the point where it can’t handle it, resulting in long delays for users or a server completely failing. Sometimes a denial-of-service attack can act as a diversion – hackers don’t actually get any benefit from the attack itself but carry it out to create chaos so they can break into the organisation’s network while it focuses on restoring its website.

Why hackers use DDoS to attack is often to gain entry into your website. They launch a number of requests to try different combinations of usernames and passwords on your login page, which can overload your site. Or they don’t want to gain entry but demand a ransom instead.

How can you prevent DDoS?

The best way to stop a DDoS attack is to spot the signs early – here are some of the things you should look out for:

  • Issues with website speed
  • Multiple requests from a specific IP address over a short period of time
  • Abnormal spike in website traffic
  • Customers reporting slow or unavailable service

As well as learning the signs, you should take the time to prepare your business for a potential threat:

Use advanced firewalls

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against a DDoS attack is to secure your network with advanced systems – firewalls, anti-spam and content filtering together – will enable consistent defence and allow little outside traffic.

Monitor website traffic

Monitoring your website traffic can help you to spot a problem quickly. If you know what to expect when your traffic hits its upper limit, you can put rate limiting into place. That means that the server will only accept as many requests as it can handle.

Be aware of when your website traffic surges – this could be during the Christmas period or after you execute marketing campaigns. Lots of authentic traffic (from a viral social media link, for example) can sometimes have a similar server-crashing effect. Using a managed IT service can provide constant monitoring of website traffic, alerts for unusual website activity and awareness of the latest DDoS tactics.

Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN)

To stop an attacker overloading your server, one solution is to store your data on multiple servers in different places. A Content Distribution Network uses servers that are near to each website or data user for faster performance. This also means you’re less vulnerable to attack if one server becomes overloaded, as you have more that are still operational.

Increase your network bandwidth

If businesses can afford it, they should increase bandwidth (the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over a network) to stop attackers from overloading a server with traffic. This step might be difficult for smaller companies that do not have the budget, so another option is to move to the cloud, which has far more bandwidth than a private network.

Train your teams

Early detection is critical for preventing a DDoS attack so all staff need to be trained to recognise the warning signs. This should not only fall to your IT department or provider, everyone needs to understand who to report to and what information needs to be provided to help limit the damage of an incident.

It’s important to keep up to date on the latest and most common attack methods and learn how your business can remain protected. A disaster recovery plan is the next step in data protection and one every business should have. This could save you downtime, the threat of a data breach and a loss of revenue.

At Aura Technology, our business continuity solutions involve a bespoke disaster recovery plan for your business. For more information about our managed IT services contact us.