Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have been a serious threat to online businesses for the past decade. Unfortunately, they have only been increasing in frequency in recent days. On top of that, they are becoming more and more sophisticated, harder to detect, and more devastating in their impact. Businesses all around the world must ramp up their defenses and take active measures to detect and prevent DDoS attacks targeting their servers.
Hackers use DDoS attacks as an effective weapon to take down websites and servers. They use networks of bots (also known as botnets) to generate a huge amount of fake traffic to their target. Since servers process each request, they quickly become overwhelmed and effectively stop working properly. Such an attack might have serious consequences for your business, no matter if it is a large corporation or an up-and-coming startup.
1. DDoS Attacks Happen More Often Than You Think
As we already mentioned, DDoS attacks are on the rise and happen with exceptional frequency. Businesses from all industries are now more or less online, offering digital products, or at least selling through e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic only escalated the digitalization of businesses around the world, making pretty much everyone susceptible to a DDoS attack at any time.
For the first half of 2020, a whopping 4.83 million DDoS attacks have been detected, a sharp increase from the already disturbing numbers for 2019. The numbers spiked dramatically during the lockdown months (March – July). Overall, if your business has not been yet targeted by a DDoS attack, you might consider yourself lucky. However, it is only a matter of time before you have to deal with this problem yourself.
2. The First DDoS Attack Occurred in 1992
In 1992, the University of Minnesota became the victim of the first known DDoS attack in history. It was executed by overwhelming traffic from just 114 computers. The method was soon adopted by hackers all around the world and used successfully against giants such as Amazon, Yahoo, and CNN. As technology became more interconnected and developed, DDoS attacks in turn became massive and more devastating.
A particularly famous case of DDoS attacks involved 15-year old Michael Calce, also known by his nickname Mafiaboy. In 2000, he managed to take down several high-profile websites, including eBay.
3. Big Corporations Are Not the Only Targets
While DDoS attacks against famous multinational companies get all the media coverage, hackers are also actively targeting smaller, more vulnerable businesses as well. Small businesses usually have less secure servers, which makes them the ideal targets for DDoS attacks. On top of that, the majority of such businesses do not consider the threat of DDoS attacks and do not invest in detection and prevention measures.
Sure, huge online retailers, online gambling websites, and financial websites are more lucrative targets for any hacker. However, attacking a smaller website is easier and will often go undetected until the damage has already been done. Hackers generally often use DDoS attacks in order to extort and blackmail businesses.
4. DDoS Attacks Can Seriously Hurt Your Finances
A DDoS attack can result in huge financial losses for your organization. Imagine an online shop not working on Black Friday, when sales should be through the roof. On top of that, DDoS attacks might aim to cripple your organization and result in significant loss of productivity. Not to mention the potential loss of recurring customers or the fees you might have to pay for non-compliance.
As we already mentioned, hackers will often use DDoS attacks as a means to extort a business and demand a ransom. Depending on the size of your business, giving in to what is essentially cyber terrorism might severely hurt your bottom line.
5. DDoS Attacks Are Great Distractions
Hackers often prefer to use DDoS attacks because they are quite effective smokescreens. While you and your team are busy dealing with the overwhelming traffic to the server, you will not be able to stop the hacker from accessing your system and stealing data. DDoS attacks often cover up data breaches and theft of personal information.
Since DDoS attacks are so disruptive and potentially damaging, a business will often focus on dealing with them and neglect other issues that happen in the background. To counter this, companies should be prepared with a DDoS attack response plan which includes monitoring for any attempts to access the system and steal data.
6. They Can Ruin Your Brand’s Reputation
Since DDoS attacks can take down your website and entire operation, they have the potential to deal a serious blow to your brand’s reputation. For example, if you run a subscription-based business and your users cannot access what they are paying for, you are in for some cancellations and negative reviews.
Nowadays, online reputation can make or break a business, so you must make sure DDoS attacks cannot take down your website. After all, customers will only buy from brands they can trust. Becoming a victim of a DDoS attack will make your potential clients think twice before doing business or submitting their personal information to you.
7. IoT Devices Are Efficient Tools for DDoS Attacks
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming more and more popular and wide spread. Due to their lack of security measures and no government regulation whatsoever, they are extremely effective tools for hackers who engage in DDoS activity. Essentially, the hacker would use a network of IoT devices to create a botnet. The bots then generate the overwhelming traffic needed to execute a DDoS attack.
8. 5G Will Make Things Worse
The rise of 5G and its implementation all over the world has a lot of advantages. However, when it comes to DDoS attacks, 5G will only make the hackers’ job easier. The increased bandwidth and low latency that 5G offers will allow them to create giant botnets from IoT devices connected to global networks. The problem is not only with the number of devices that can be simultaneously connected. The extremely low latency of 5G will make DDoS attacks far more effective, reducing the response time from minutes to mere seconds.
9. DDoS Attacks Often Go Undetected Until It’s Too Late
All online businesses have some basic security solutions that claim to be all one needs to prevent cyberattacks. However, simple firewalls, routers, and antivirus software cannot detect or prevent DDoS attacks. The vast majority of DDoS attacks do not get detected until they have already done significant damage. On top of that, once detected, it is extremely hard to track the source of the attack, since botnets typically include hundreds of thousands of IP addresses.
Businesses need to invest in specialized tools that provide them with visibility and reaction time in case of a DDoS attack. There is no all-in-one solution that will take care of everything. What you need to invest in is a multi-technological security stack that includes monitoring, detection, and prevention tools.
DDoS attacks are easy to execute and can cause significant damage to businesses of all sizes. No matter the size and scope of your company, you should not take this threat lightly. Preparing a DDoS response plan and assembling a team is key to the prevention and mitigation of such dangerous attacks.