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So what really is a DDoS attack?

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a kind of cyber attack intended to make web services and computer systems inoperative either temporarily or indefinitely by overloading targeted users with a continuous stream of incoming data packets. The term ‘distributed’ in denial of service indicates a combined attempt from a team of hackers who have the common motive of preventing normal operation of the targeted servers and web portals.

From data violations of giant businesses to shutting down of government web services, DDoS attacks have turned out to be lethal. News on cyber threats makes frequent headlines.In a case of a DDoS attack, a virus, usually a Trojan— malicious computer program that disguises as legitimate software to hack into systems—is launched and targeted towards a specific web server to besiege its usual function. Since the attack is a unified force coming from thousands of sources or even more, it is quite impossible to stop the threat by blocking individual IP addresses.

For example, shutting down access to an online e-commerce website by a group of disruptors constitutes for a DDoS attack. Breaching the security perimeter of the target is not the primary intention of a DDoS attack, it is to render services unavailable.Criminals often engage themselves in intimidating or blackmailing people or companies in return for money. However, there have been instances where a DDoS attack is used as a smokescreen to hide bigger cybercrimes.

Different kinds of DDoS Attacks

On a broader scale, DDoS attacks are classified into three categories:

  • Traffic-based Volumetric DDoS Attack: This is by far the most common type of DDoS attack and report suggests that around 65 percent of DDoS attacks are traffic-based in nature. A large amount of UDP, TCP, and ICMP packets are sent to the targets by the hackers. Although the target is bombarded with huge traffic, sometimes exceeding 100 Gbps, the hackers do not have to generate the ample amount of traffic themselves. The attackers can multiply a small amount of traffic using a reflecting medium.

  • Protocol-based Bandwidth attack: In protocol-based attack, a hacker intends to utilize the weaker spots of the OSI layers. In this case, the attacker usually floods the target server with a huge quantity of data resulting in the loss of bandwidth, which often leads to denial of service.

  • Application-based attack: Attacks on the application layer are the most secretive of all and leads to deep loss of the target if the hacking software generates traffic at low speed. Attacking at relatively low speed indicates that the operation will go unnoticed and difficult to detect. This kind of attack, however, is complicated and hard to mitigate since it requires the hackers to be thoroughly skilled about the subject.


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