You might have heard of DDoS attacks in the news. The websites of large companies and organizations are temporarily unavailable because of these attacks. But how is that possible? And why does this happen? Here you can find out everything you always wanted to know about DDoS attacks.
What is a DDoS Attack?
DDoS stands for “distributed denial-of-service” and is becoming more and more common. With a DDoS attack any website can be temporarily taken down by hackers. Sometimes this means a website becomes extremely slow, but is also happens that a website isn’t accessible to users at all.
To organize a DDoS attack you need a botnet. This is a large network of infected devices that can be controlled by the “so-called” bot herder, the person that has control over the bots. The owners of these devices often don’t know they are part of a botnet.
In general a DDoS attack happens as follows:
- The hacker creates or buys a botnet
- The botnet is instructed to visit a website; thousand of devices simultaneously request access to a website
- The servers of the website cannot handle the amount of requests
- The website is (temporarily) inaccessible for real users
Bot herders sometimes create botnets to sell on to parties that want to use them for DDoS attacks. You can find these botnet sellers on the dark web, the place on the internet where the general public doesn’t go.
Hosting companies try to make is very difficult for DDoS attacks to succeed but they cannot prevent them completely.
Reasons for DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks are launched for an array of different reasons, and sometimes it is difficult to find out why a certain company or organization has been targeted because the attackers can stay anonymous. Below are some of the reasons why DDoS attacks are launched.
One goal of a DDoS attack can be extortion. They attack a large institution such as a bank. After the attack they threaten them with an even larger attack if they do not pay a ransom in bitcoin. The motivation here is money.
There are also cases of DDoS attacks that are known to have been revenge (xx where a desire for revenge was the main motivation). The attacker might be angry at a company for whatever reason and attack them with a botnet.
Another reason for DDoS attacks is a show of force. Hackers want to show what they are capable of and they illustrate this by taking down websites and services of large companies. Moreover, this can be used as a statement to show that those in power in the real world do not have the ability to control the internet.
It might seem strange but some DDoS attacks are also executed for fun. Some hackers are simply testing the power they can wield over society. A recent attack on several large banks in the Netherlands was executed by a 18 year old boy that later noted he did so just for the sake of it. This is shocking because it shows just how easy it is to attack large institutions online.
DDoS Attacks on Individuals
DDoS attacks can also be launched at a single IP address. The only thing an attacker needs is your IP address. This type of DDoS attack is most common in competitive online gaming. Hackers will launch an attack on their opponent to get them disqualified for their bad connection. This might seem extreme but has happened quite often.
In most games you play through official severs and your IP is automatically hidden. However, with some PC games that support third-party servers this isn’t the case. These third-party servers do not offer the same identity protection as the official gaming servers do.
By sending a lot of request to your IP address you will have difficulty accessing the game server, causing you to be disqualified or simply unable to access the game.
To prevent a DDoS attack on your person, for instance in an online game you can use a VPN to hide your IP address. You can read more on that below.
Protection Against DDoS Attacks
Protection for Websites
Most hosting services offer a basic protection against DDoS attacks. However, it is impossible to protect a website against DDoS attacks completely. Because the attacks are performed by a large botnet that exists out of different IP adresses, they cannot simply block the IP address because there are too many of them. Moreover, they cannot be sure what are real IP addresses and what are bot IP addresses.
The devices that are part of a botnet can seem like normal requests to a website, so they won’t block them. However, the sum of all these requests is too much for the servers to handle. Moreover, botnets are becoming bigger, making it impossible for websites to guard against them.
If you own a website you can check with your hosting provider to see what measures they take against DDoS attacks. Not all hosting providers offer the same protection against these types of attacks. However, as mentioned before, if they truly want to take down your website they can and there is nothing you can do about it.
Protection for Personal Devices
You can protect yourself from personal DDoS attacks. This can be achieved by hiding your true IP address. A VPN or Virtual Private Network encrypts all your internet traffic and hides your IP address. With a VPN you connect to the internet through the VPN servers and you take on the IP address of those servers. To launch a DDoS attack at you they need to know your real IP address. Thus, with a VPN nobody will be able to attack your personal device.
Protect Yourself with a VPN
As mentioned before a VPN can help to hide your IP address. This means you can be completely anonymous online. However, a VPN does way more. It also encrypts all of your traffic, which means that nobody can see what you do online and your online privacy is protected. Moreover, a VPN helps you to bypass any geographical restrictions, providing you with complete online freedom. You can bypass any form of online censorship.
DDoS attacks are launched with the help of a botnet. This network of sleeper cells can be prompted to visit a certain website at the same time. This can cause a website to slow down severely or even shut down completely. Hackers perform these attacks out of revenge, for money gain, or even just for fun. Because of the scale of these attacks it is virtually impossible for websites to protect themselves against them. However, some DDoS attacks are launched at individual IP addresses in gaming. You can protect yourself against this type of attack with a VPN.