DDos Attacks – A New Cyber Epidemic

DDos Attacks – A New Cyber Epidemic“Distributed Denial of Service” is a form of malicious attack designed to try and render either a server or a network resource unavailable to its normal users. This is usually achieved via either interrupting or suspending the services of the host connection to the web.

Essentially, DDoS attacks usually come into one of three forms:

Volume based attacks include UDP floods and ICMP floods. The aim of the volume based attacks is to saturate the bandwidth for the victim’s site to the extent that it becomes unable to deal with the assault and ceases to operate.

Protocol attacks are designed to target server resources using tactics such as SYN floods and fragmented packet attacks.

Finally, application layer attacks have become more prevalent in recent months. These take the form of seemingly legitimate requests that target particular aspects of the web server.

What are the effects?

DDoS assaults are multiple and varied. Whilst the method of attack may differ (as seen above), the goal is always to flood the resources of the targeted website, with the aim being to cease its operations

There are a number of things that this can result in. If the website is an e-commerce venture, then they could potentially lose out on thousands in sales. They could also lose out on a potential leads from customers. If the website relies on advertising for revenue, the site will lose traffic and therefore be questioned by sponsors. They may also receive bad publicity regarding their security protocols.

DDoS Evolution

Like all forms of web security attack, DDoS assaults have continued to change and evolve over the last couple of years – as a result, DDoS protection has had to adapt quickly in order to resist these threats. The volume based network layer attacks were originally the most common forms of assault, using rendering target servers useless through sheer weight of numbers. At its zenith, this was an extremely effective tactic.

The more recent Application Layer  (aka. Layer 7) assaults, though, are evidence that hackers are prepared to use their brains rather than brawn. The attacks are often disguised as legitimate traffic (sometimes through the use of headless browsers), and focus on targeting individual features such as enquiry forms rather than a whole website. This stealthier approach makes them far harder to intercept. Indeed, if set-up perfectly, an application layer attack would be indistinguishable from normal traffic.

The latest phase

One recent attack, monitored by DDoS protection service provider Incapsula, provided a good indication of just how DDoS attacks have evolved.

In terms of its size, the assault was relatively small, monitored as being 4Gbps and generating around 8 million DNS queries per second – enough to bring down any un-protected site, but not incredibly large, when compared to other DDoS events.

The troubling thing about this attack was not the volume, but the fact that it had come from one source: certainly from the same network, and possibly even from the same device. In terms of the amount of power coming from one source, this is more or less unprecedented. In recent years, whole Botnets would have had to be deployed in order to conduct an attack, using tens of thousands of devices at a time. Now, apparently, this can be done with just one single machine.

It’s obvious from the figures involved in this attack that the stakes have just got higher in terms of DDoS. For instance, had this assault used the amplification method that is common in many attacks, a 200Gbps attack could have been created using a single network or computer.

Botnets have always been taken very seriously, and deservedly so. However, this DDoS “cannon” style attack is on a different level in terms of the firepower that can be generated from a one source. Were this method to be used with three or four computers simultaneously (as we can assume it probably will be in the future), the consequences could be devastating for even the largest of websites.

Editorial Team
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