Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks disrupt online websites, applications, or service access. Note that recently, several Canadian institutions have been victims of DDoS-type attacks. According to various sources, these attacks are claimed by Russian Pro pirate groups. In this article, we look at what it is and how it works. In addition, we will look at some security approaches to avoid these types of attacks.
How Do Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Work?
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks work by overwhelming a website, application, or online service with massive traffic. This traffic comes from multiple sources, typically thousands of compromised machines called “bots.” Thus, these bots establish a network called a “botnet,” which an attacker controls.
1 – Machine infection
The attacker exploits system vulnerabilities or uses phishing techniques to compromise numerous computers, servers, or IoT (Internet of Things) devices. These infected machines become “bots” that act under remote control.
2 – Creation of the botnet
Bots are recruited to create a botnet, a distributed network of compromised machines commanded and controlled by the attacker, usually through a command and control (C&C) server.
3 – Planning the attack
First, the attacker identifies the target. This target can be a website, an online service, or a network infrastructure. Then, it selects the type of DDoS attack it wants to launch. In this case, it can choose between an amplification attack, a saturation attack, or an application exploitation attack.
4 – Launching the attack
Finally, the attacker sends commands to the botnet to launch the DDoS attack. Bots then generate numerous simultaneous requests or data packets and send them to the target. Therefore, they create massive traffic that overloads the target’s resources.
Disruption or interruption of services
Hackers overwhelm the volume of inbound traffic. To the point that this leads to a deterioration in performance or saturation of resources (such as bandwidth, memory, or processor) and,
potentially a complete interruption of services.
DDoS attacks can last from minutes to hours or even days. It depends on the target’s resilience, the countermeasures, and the attacker’s objectives. Indeed, the motivations behind DDoS attacks are varied, ranging from simple nuisance, extortion, and acts of political protest to attempts to damage an organization’s reputation.
What are the forms of DDoS attacks?
DDoS attacks come in different forms. However, they fall into three main categories:
Traffic Amplification Attacks
They exploit vulnerable communication protocols to amplify the volume of traffic sent to the target. A typical example is DNS amplification. In this case, the attacker sends fake DNS queries to vulnerable DNS servers. As a result, the server responds with a much larger volume of data to the target.
They are intended to deplete the resources of the target system. Here, cybercriminals usually attack bandwidth or memory, generating many simultaneous requests. SYN flood and UDP flood attacks are examples of this type of attack.
Application Exploit Attacks.
These attacks target the specific vulnerabilities of an application or service by generating malicious requests that exploit these weaknesses. For example, a Slowloris attack sends partial and incomplete HTTP requests to saturate server connections.
How to protect against DDoS-type attacks?
Protecting from DDoS attacks can be a challenge. Nevertheless, various strategies and measures can be implemented to minimize risks and mitigate the impact of attacks. Here are some recommendations to protect yourself against DDoS attacks:
Use a DDoS protection service
Many providers offer specialized DDoS protection services. These services detect and mitigate attacks by filtering suspicious traffic and absorbing excessive traffic.
Build a resilient network.
Design network infrastructure with excess bandwidth capacity and geographical allocation of resources to absorb DDoS traffic. In addition, use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to distribute traffic and dissipate attacks.
Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
A WAF can filter malicious requests and attacks targeting Web applications. Thus, it can be configured to block suspicious requests and malicious IP addresses.
Properly configure network equipment.
Be sure to configure your routers, firewalls, and servers to minimize the impact of DDoS attacks. For example, configure routers to block defective packets and firewalls to restrict the rate of incoming requests.
Implement intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
These systems can detect and block DDoS attacks in real-time by analyzing network traffic and identifying attack patterns.
Apply good security practices.
Regularly update software and hardware, apply security patches, and follow best practices to reduce vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
Plan an incident response.
Develop a DDoS incident response plan that includes procedures to detect, report and mitigate attacks. Furthermore, ensure that your team members have the skills to respond effectively during an attack.
Traffic monitoring and analysis
Implement continuous network traffic monitoring to detect anomalies and potential attacks. Then, use analytics tools to examine traffic patterns and identify attack patterns.
Combining these strategies and working with security partners will significantly reduce the risks and impacts of DDoS attacks.