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What is a DDoS attack?

June 23, 2021
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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.

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There is no denying that technology has advanced human civilization in ways our predecessors couldn’t have even dreamed of. Today, we couldn’t imagine life without it, especially the internet. Unfortunately, this same technology also opens up new avenues for criminals in the form of cyberattacks—one of the most popular being DDoS attacks.

DDoS Meaning

DDoS stands for distributed denial-of-service. This is a type of cyber attack that creates an influx of web traffic in the form of a botnet, which is designed to overwhelm a server or network. DDoS attacks quickly and effectively shut down websites and systems without redundancy measures in place.

What is a Botnet?

A Robot Network or botnet for short is composed of thousands of remotely controlled computers that have been hacked for the sole purpose of exploiting organizations or individuals. These hacked devices are also known as zombie computers, so you can think of them as a horde of “the walking dead,” or a horde of the computing dead, in this case. 

Tip: Your computer or IoT device can be a “zombie” without your knowledge, but there are signs of infection. For example, if you’re experiencing random or unexpected shutdowns, slow internet, suspicious pop-ups, or you can’t update your operating system, you may want to check your computer for malware.

How a Distributed Denial-of-Service Attack Works?

Carrying out a DDoS attack, of course, starts with a hacker raising their army of zombies—a botnet. After said army has been assembled, the attacker sets the botnet loose to devour brains—okay, botnets don’t eat brains. But they do swarm an unsuspecting network according to instructions defined by the hacker and render the network inoperable. 

The way these attacks work is by having each bot in the army send queries to the victim’s IP address. This, in turn, floods the server or network and prevents legitimate traffic from accessing the site they are trying to reach, hence the name denial-of-service. 

Did you know?: One of the first major DDoS attacks was launched in February 2000 by a 15-year-old kid who hacked into several university networks and then used their servers to take down multiple mega sites, such as eBay, CNN, Yahoo, Dell, and Amazon. Today, Michael Calace aka Mafiaboy is a white hat hacker who is hired by organizations to pinpoint security vulnerabilities in network systems.
DDOS Attack

Recent DDoS Attacks that Caused Widespread Outages

Distributed denial-of-service attacks have only grown in popularity since Mafiaboy’s infamous internet takedown in 2000. Here’s a few of the biggest attacks that shook up the tech world in recent years:

Amazon Web Services (AWS)  - February 2020

Blizzard (Europe) - October 2020

Dyn - October 2016

GitHub - February 2018

Microsoft Azure (suspected) - April 2021

Sony Playstation Network - April 2011

6 U.S. Banks Takedown - March 2012

Did you know?: Computers aren’t the only devices that can be hacked and added to a botnet. Routers provided by internet service providers (ISPs) can also be targeted, which can lead to a “zombie infection” for all smart appliances connected to your network. Your fridge might very well have helped bring down one of your favorite websites! Got to love technology, huh?

DDoS Attacks are a Threat to Any Business With an Online Presence

While money is often the motivating factor behind today’s cyber threats, some hackers unleash on their targets just to prove a point. Whatever the reason, even the briefest of attacks can be catastrophic to businesses. Since DDoS attacks exploit the domain name system by creating massive surges in queries, you want to make sure you have preventive measures in place so that your network isn’t overrun by digital zombies. Luckily, there are simple “survival” tactics that can be implemented on the DNS level.

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