What Is A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) Attack? How to Prevent DDoS Attack

Haseeb Awan
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April 13, 2023

Introduction

The DDoS attack is among the most common cyberattacks but is also the most challenging and difficult to prevent. Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack uses multiple devices to overload the server with requests. It disconnects many websites, preventing the system from executing legitimate user requests, and often takes hours to restore. Successful DDoS attacks result in prolonged downtime, financial loss, and customer dissatisfaction.

As the "DDoS-for-hire" threat landscape grows, hiring threat actors to target a website has become much more manageable. According to the survey conducted by Infosecurity magazine, the number of DDoS attacks increased by 31% in the first quarter of 2021.

Read on to learn what is a DDoS attack, how DDoS attacks work,  different DDoS attack prevention strategies, and top 7 tools to fight DDoS attacks.

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What Is A DDoS Attack?

DDoS is an abbreviation of Distributed Denial of Service, a subclass of DoS (denial of service). In a DDoS attack, many connected online devices, commonly known as botnets, flood the targeted website with overwhelming fake traffic and make the website inaccessible for typical business transactions.

Successful DDoS attacks result in prolonged downtime, financial loss, and customer dissatisfaction. Although most DDoS attacks target websites, these attacks can occur on any network resource available online, preventing employees and potential customers from accessing online resources. 

In recent years, we have seen exponential growth in distributed denial of service attacks. DDoS attacks are among the top four threats to cybersecurity, including ransomware, software engineering, and supply chain attacks.

Purpose of DDoS Attack

A DDoS attack often aims to bring down the website.

Whether a DDoS attack targets the application layer or the network layer determines how long it will remain. The maximum duration of a network layer attack is 48–49 hours. Attacks on the application layer can endure up to 70 days.

As per the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, DDoS attacks and other similar types are illegal, an attacker may face imprisonment since it is unlawful.

Types of DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks can be of 3 different types:

  • Application layer attacks,
  • Protocol attacks, and
  • Volume-based attacks.

How Does A DDoS Attack Work?

Networks of internet-connected devices carry out DDoS attacks. DDoS exploit these networks to isolate users from a server or network resource, like a website or any online platform they frequently visit.

To initiate a DDoS attack, attackers use security vulnerabilities or malware-infected computers or IoT devices to control them for malicious purposes remotely. Any infected device is called a "bot" or a "zombie" that can further spread malware and participate in DDoS attacks.

A group of bots is known as a botnet, and once the botnet is configured, the attacker can launch DDoS attacks on the target system by sending remote instructions to each bot. Excessive traffic leads to denial of services, preventing regular traffic from entering a website or network.

Since each bot or zombie is a legitimate internet device, it can become difficult to distinguish attack traffic from regular traffic.

DDoS Attack Techniques

The following are the DDoS attack techniques:

  • SYN flood
  • UDP flood
  • NTP Amplification
  • ICMP (ping) flood
  • Slowloris
  • Ping of Death
  • HTTP flood

How to Prevent DDoS Attack?

We have observed a massive surge in DDoS attacks that have plagued companies over the last few years. These attacks are the most effective and costly. The ascending trend promises to continue, putting cybersecurity professionals with DDoS attack prevention skills in high demand.

Here are a few ways to prevent a DDoS attack on your device.

Secure Router:

The Wi-fi router is the gateway to your network. Therefore, you need to secure it by changing the default password. Follow the instructions for your router's specific make and model to change the password, or you can get in touch with the manufacturer.

Monitor Your Traffic:

Keep checking your traffic for abnormalities, monitor the unexplained sudden increase in traffic, and visit suspicious IP addresses and geographic locations. These factors could indicate a "dry run" by the attackers assessing your defense before committing a full DDoS attack. Immediately detecting traffic flow deviations can help you prepare for an impending attack.

Change Default Passwords for IoT Devices:

Many IoT (internet of things) devices and smart devices have default passwords to increase functionality and efficiency. It will help if you change the default password by following the setup instructions or searching the web. Doing this can reduce the chance of your IoT or intelligent device being hacked and improve the device's security.

Web Applications Firewall:

A web application Firewall or WAF is a tool used to reduce layer 7 DDoS attacks. A web application firewall can act as a reverse proxy to protect the server from specific malware attacks by configuring a WAF between the internet and the source server. In addition, the ability to swiftly adopt a standard rule in response to an attack is the key feature of an effective WAF.

Third-Party DDoS Testing"

Use third-party DDoS testing, known as pen testing, to simulate an attack on your IT infrastructure and experiment with different types of attacks to prepare you for the onslaught of complex cyber-attacks.

EFANI's Black Seal Protection:

Efani's Premium Black Seal Protection offers security against cyber threats such as DDoS attacks, IMSI catchersSIM swaps, and more. Efani provides robust security infrastructure against complex DDoS attacks before reaching the targeted telecommunication infrastructure, enabling the network services to function normally.

Restricting Internet Broadcasting:

The lousy actor behind the DDoS attack will likely send a flood of requests to all internet-connected devices to increase the impact. Your security team can respond to this scheme by restricting network traffic between devices. Limiting network broadcasting is an effective way to distort many DDoS attempts.

Cloud-Based Protection:

Implementing on-premises software and hardware is required for DDoS attack prevention, and you can use comprehensive cloud-based services to counter high-volume DDoS threats. Users can leverage cloud-based DDoS protection by using two options: on-demand cloud DDoS mitigation and always-on cloud DDoS protection.

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What is DDoS Mitigation?

The technique of effectively safeguarding a target from a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is called "DDoS mitigation."

DDoS Mitigation Steps

You can use these four steps to describe a typical mitigation process generally:

DDoS Attack Detection

The recognition of traffic flow irregularities that may indicate the escalation of a DDoS attack. Your ability to identify an attack as soon as possible—ideally, instantly—determines your effectiveness.

Traffic Diversion

Traffic is diverted from its intended destination through BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) or DNS (Domain Name System) routing and filtered or wholly discarded. Since DNS routing is continuously active, it can swiftly react to attacks and successfully against both application-layer and network-layer threats. Either on-demand or always-on BGP routing is available.

DDoS Traffic Filtering

DDoS traffic eliminates, typically, by seeing patterns that rapidly separate genuine traffic (i.e., users, search engine bots) and malevolent users. You are proactive when you can stop an attack without affecting your users' experience. The goal is for site visitors to understand your solution thoroughly.

System Analysis

System analytics and logs can collect data regarding an attack to find the perpetrator(s) and boost potential resilience. The traditional logging method can offer insights but is not real-time and may need extensive human analysis. Comprehensive security analytics approaches can provide a quick understanding of attack details and detailed visibility into attack flow.

How to Choose a DDoS Mitigation Provider?

You must also consider several other crucial factors when selecting a mitigation supplier. These consist of:

Network Capacity

Network capacity is still a fantastic tool for comparing DDoS mitigation services. It demonstrates the overall flexibility you have at your disposal throughout an attack.

For instance, a one Tbps (terabits per second) network, less the bandwidth needed to sustain its normal operations, can potentially block up to the same malicious traffic.

Most cloud-based mitigation solutions have multi-Tbps network bandwidth, far more than any customer could ever need. In contrast, internal system capability and the size of a company's network pipe are the default limits for on-premise DDoS mitigation systems.

Key features:

  • Available bandwidth, defined in Tbps or Gbps, can be used to thwart an attack. An attack with bandwidth more significant than your DDoS provider might target your servers.
  • Deployment model: cloud-based or on-premises solutions. Cloud-based systems can withstand high-volume DDoS attacks and are elastically adaptable.

Processing Capacity

If you also considered the processing capacities of your mitigation system in addition to throughput capacity. They depict by forwarding rates, which express in Mpps (millions of packets per second).

Attacks today frequently exceed 50 Mpps, and some can go as high as 200–300 Mpps. Your mitigation supplier's defences will be overwhelmed by an attack with more processing power than it can handle, so you should find out about any limitations upfront.

Key features:

  • The forwarding rate expresses in Mpps. Your servers will strike by an attack beyond your DDoS supplier's maximum forwarding rate.
  • Forwarding method: It includes DNS or BGP routing. DNS routing is always active and can defend both network- and application-layer threats. BGP routing can be always-on or activated when needed, protecting against almost any attack.

Latency

It is crucial to realize that, eventually, genuine traffic to your application or website will go through the network of the DDoS provider:

  • When an attack happens, traffic shifts to the DDoS supplier if DDoS solutions are in demand.
  • If DDoS protection is constantly active (which has several benefits), all of your traffic will go through the provider's servers.

Your users could experience excessive latency if the link between your data centre and your DDoS supplier is not very efficient. You should consider:

  • Which locations do the DDoS supplier offer as points of presence (PoP), and how near are they to your data centre? (s)
  • Whether your DDoS supplier has PoPs near where your primary clientele locates
  • Whether the DDoS supplier uses cutting-edge routing methods to guarantee the best communication between your data centre and your consumers

The first factor is the most crucial; for instance, imagine an Indian corporation collaborating with a European-only DDoS service. Each user request must first travel to the European Point of Presence (PoP), then to the Indian data centre, then back to the European data centre, and finally back to the user.

It will still occur even if the user locates in Europe. Latency increases if the user, like the business in our example, is located in India or another unsupported country.

Time to Mitigation

Once an attack discovers, it is crucial to act quickly to mitigate it. Most attacks can easily destroy a target, but the healing process may take hours. This interruption can negatively impact your organization for weeks or even months.

Always-on systems benefit in this situation since they offer proactive detection. They provide almost instantaneous mitigation, frequently defending businesses from the initial round of an attack. Find a solution that can react to an attack in seconds.

However, not every always-on solution provides this degree of responsiveness. That is why, in addition to evaluating a DDoS security provider throughout a service trial, asking regarding time to mitigation should be on your checklist.

7 Most Popular DDoS Attack Tools

Following is a list of the most popular DDoS tools on the market.

SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM)

A Security Event Manager from SolarWinds is powerful DDoS attack prevention and mitigation tool. It will monitor the incident logs from various sources to identify and stop DDoS actions.

SEM will use community-sourced lists of well-known malicious actors to find connections with control servers and potential commands. It gathers, maintains, and analyses logs from multiple IDS/IPs, servers, firewalls, and other sources to accomplish this.

Features:

  • You can use checkboxes in the tool to adjust the options.
  • SEM includes functions for automated alert-sending, IP blocking, and account closure.
  • SEM will become a single point of contact for post-DDoS mitigation and -breach investigations thanks to this manner of log and event maintenance.
  • It stores the events and logs in an unchangeable read-only format that is compressed and encrypted.
  • You can create customized filters in SEM-based on particular accounts/IPs, timeframes, or combinations of criteria.

DDOSIM

DDoS Simulator refers to as DDOSIM. This software utilizes to simulate a DDoS attack. Both the website and the network are vulnerable to attack.

Features:

  • The server and these hosts establish a full TCP connection.
  • It employs a large number of Zombie hosts to attack the server.
  • DDoS attacks using erroneous queries are possible.
  • It can launch an HTTP DDoS attack utilizing legitimate requests.
  • It can attack the application layer.

HULK

HULK stands for HTTP Unbearable Load King and creates for research purposes. It is a DoS attack tool for the web server.

Features:

  • It can produce unusual and enigmatic traffic.
  • You can get around the cache engine.
  • The web server experiences a significant amount of traffic as a result.

Slowloris

A DDoS attack was put in place using the Slowloris tool. It is employed to bring down the server.

Features:

  • It has no impact on the target network's additional ports or services.
  • It transmits to the server only approved HTTP traffic.
  • It does it by submitting a partially-completed request.
  • This attack aims to maintain as many connections as possible with those already open.
  • As long as the server leaves the bogus connection open, the connection pool will be overloaded, preventing the actual links from receiving requests.
  • The connections keep as long as feasible.

Tor's Hammer

The company developed this tool for testing. It is for use after a slow attack.

Features:

  • Use 127.0.0.1:9050 to execute it through Tor.
  • You will stay anonymous if you run thru the Tor network.
  • With the assistance of this application, You can attack servers running Apache and IIS.

Xoic

It is a tool for DDoS attacks. Small websites can initiate attacks with the aid of this software.

Features:

  • It has three different attack modes.
  • It is easy to use.
  • Normal DoS attack mode.
  • Testing mode.
  • DoS attack using TCP, ICMP, UDP, HTTP, or other protocols.

LOIC

Low Orbit Ion Cannon is known as LOIC. For the DDoS attack, there is well-liked and free software.

Features:

  • It requests information from the server using UDP, TCP, and HTTP.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It can carry out the attack depending on the server's URL or IP address.
  • Your IP address hide by it. There is no solution, not even the proxy server. Because in that situation, the proxy server will become a target.
  • The website will go offline in seconds and stop reacting to user queries.

Conclusion

Knowing how to deal with a DDoS attack is imperative, as most organizations will have to deal with some form of attack over time. To reduce DDoS attacks, you should focus on configuring services and devices between the system and the network that attackers may exploit to initiate DDoS attacks. In the end, being one step ahead of the attacker with know-how could help prevent cyberattacks.

Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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