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DDoS attacks and protection against them

Today we often hear about ddos attacks on a website that use stand-alone ddos programs. For example, in September 2018, hackers were channeling about one terabyte of traffic per second to the servers of a French host, thereby disrupting real-time data recording. A similar story happened in early 2019, when more than five terabytes of traffic were directed to one of the American host companies.

There are several types of DDoS attacks, and all of these types of attacks are extremely dangerous for your business. Therefore, it is necessary to take elementary precautions to mitigate and detect such attacks. – there are dozens of tools and many recommendations available on the web for monitoring and mitigating congestion on your resource.

Below we will try to figure out what ddos attacks are, how they are carried out and how to defend against them. We will also touch on the goals of these attacks and the basic technical principles of their implementation.

What is a DDoS attack?

When your machine is subjected to a DDoS attack, it receives an extremely large data stream, which negatively affects the performance of its processors or even crashes the system.

Basically it happens like this - malicious users who intend to harm your server call bots for anonymous systems around the world. These bots can be controlled remotely and are designed to perform specific tasks.

If the user wants to carry out a DDos attack, he just needs to activate the bots. These bots, which can number in the millions, are starting to fill the server with garbage data. The server, in turn, stops functioning normally – it can't handle the load, it can't allocate resources for real users, or it just shuts down.

This attack method attempts to render the target system and its Internet services unusable or usable only to a very limited extent for the user due to the congestion in the number of concurrent transactions. Unlike a conventional attack that can originate from a single host, a DDoS attack usually consists of many separate requests from a very large number of bots.

With DDoS attacks, hackers try to make Internet service protocols unavailable through targeted overload. The target of an attack can be both servers in general and other network components.

Strictly speaking, DDoS attacks differ in key characteristics. – namely, which layer of the Open Network Systems Interconnection (OSI) model they affect. Most often, overloads are carried out at the network (Lvl. 3), transport (Lvl. 4), presentation (Lvl. 6) and application (applications) (Lvl. 7) protocol levels.

How do attacks work?

The structure of server overloading has long been defined and has a typical pattern. Below we will touch on two of the most common types.

Infrastructure attacks

Overload at Lvl.3 and Lvl.4 is usually defined as an infrastructure attack. Actually, this is the most common type of DDoS attack. It typically uses vectors such as synchronized (SYN) streams and other mirror attacks such as user-defined datagram bundles (UDP).

These attacks are usually very long-lasting and often large in size, and significantly overload the capacity of the network or application servers. Fortunately, these attacks are also clearly labeled and easier to detect.

Application Layer Attacks

Lvl.6 and Lvl.7 attacks are often classified as application level attacks. While these attacks are less common, they tend to be more complex and harder to defend against.

These attacks are usually small in scope compared to infrastructure layer attacks, but tend to focus on particularly expensive parts of the application to make them inaccessible to real users. Example: A stream of HTTP requests on the login page, an expensive search API, or even Wordpress XML-RPC streams (also known as Wordpress pingback attacks).

Some novice hackers want to know - how to make a DDoS attack? But although the principle is simple, preparing for it is a rather laborious process that requires significant effort.

While it used to be difficult to torpedo a target with large amounts of data, networked devices on the Internet of Things seem to offer hackers completely new opportunities for DDoS attacks. Whether it's a video camera, a heating control system or a receiver: every networked device connected to the Internet also has a small computer.

The individual devices are not particularly powerful, but they can be easily connected to form a botnet that ultimately distributes tens of thousands of requests per second to servers. Attackers don't even need deep IT knowledge to carry out such an attack: DDoS attack tools can be bought online.

An example is a mixed application layer attack (SYN + TCP Connect + HTTP flood + UDP flood). A feature of this method is a wide variety of vectors with a relatively low performance (3 Gbps) - that is, the attack comes from different directions

Why are sites attacked?

The consequences of a DDoS attack can be devastating to both infrastructure and business: the online store is offline, the mail server no longer receives or sends emails, and employees are unavailable

A drop in sales and loss of reputation can seriously damage a company and erode customer confidence. DDoS attacks are often followed by extortion attempts with the threat of system paralysis.

A successful DDoS attack can cause significant material damage to the company that owns the resource or the organization that leases the server. This also includes the loss of image or the appearance of dissatisfied users and customers.

How to defend against a DDoS attack?

In 2019, a German company conducted a DDoS susceptibility study. It turned out that more than half of the 250 IT decision makers and consultants interviewed for the Link11 and TeleTrusT study had already been victims of a DDoS attack.

But what could they do to protect the systems? Many IT departments are helpless against such an attack, as even dedicated firewalls overload and crash. Naturally, the easiest way to prevent an attack on your servers is to close ports and cut off any external web traffic, but this will also lead to your own isolation.

Filtering traffic in the backbone

You can estimate data traffic in the network backbone and prevent it in the event of a noticeably larger increase in the amount of data towards your IP address.

For example, in the so-called blacklist (Blacklist) experts remove all traffic that goes to an IP address not used by the client, and thus free the connection. Filter lists also have a corresponding effect. The company determines the senders who are allowed to establish a connection, and all other requests are rejected.

Another method is a kind of virtual machine that marks and discards malicious IP packets in the customer's data traffic, so that only pure traffic gets into the customer's connection and the company can run smoothly.

Connection control and response to attacks

If a company sees a DDoS attack, it should contact the provider as soon as possible so that countermeasures can be taken immediately and the negative impact is minimized. Cybersecurity experts are monitoring the connection for the duration of the attack, which can last several weeks.

Outcome

A short article cannot provide a complete analysis of future forecasts. But, given the increase in network bandwidth, we will most likely observe a surge in DDoS attacks during 2020-2025.

Since they do not technically require special training, and their effect is quite destructive, such attacks will increasingly be used as a method of cyber terrorism and influence on corporations and economic Internet structures.


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