DDOS Attacks: A Brief Overview

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While most of you might be busy watching US elections aftermath, there was also news of Canadian immigration website crashing unexpectedly on election night. We’re not sure if it was due to the sheer number of people who wanted to leave US, after Donald Trump came out on top. Although this seems like a plausible explanation for the liberals supporting Clinton, the sudden spike in requests to the servers could also be a possible DDOS attack.

What Is a DDOS Attack?

Known officially as Distributed-Denial-of-Service, this type of cybercrime attack involves oversaturating servers with false service requests, eventually frying them in the process. The culprit in all of this are the Trojans injected by hackers that flood servers with more requests than they could handle. This causes the targeted websites to shut down and become unavailable for use. And since these faulty requests usually originate from thousands of sources it makes them virtually impossible to stop once they attack.

How DDOS Attacks Occur?

When you try to access a particular website, your computer sends a service request to the website server for authentication. Once the request is approved the server sends an acknowledgement and the user is granted access to the webpage.

However, a DDOS attack on other hand creates thousands of fake user addresses that generate false requests that are sent to servers for permission. Although the server authenticates these requests, it is unable to send an acknowledgement since all requests were sent by fake address. This anomaly eventually overwhelms servers as they get bombarded with more requests than they could process in time.

Why DDOS Attacks Happen?

After phishing campaigns, DDOS attacks are the most common forms of cybercrime activities that happen on internet. Hackers use such attacks for a variety of purposes, which may or may not involve any financial gain. Let’s look at the various DDOS attacks based on their motive.

  1. Hit-n-Run Attacks

Hit-in-run attacks mostly involve hacking into the servers of high-profile websites, online gaming services and various consumer webpages. These attacks are usually done will less devious intentions by amateur cyber criminals who aren’t looking for any monetary gain. These are usually considered test attacks by unorganized hackers who might not be that skillful.

  1. Political Attacks

Like the name suggests, these attacks usually target political webpages that are usually run by the government or state. These websites are the most common targets for organized bands of cyber criminals who want to make a statement. These are much more serious than the abovementioned hit-n-run attacks that are the easiest to detect and block. Although such attacks aren’t usually done for financial gains or payout, these can still cause serious damage to the government’s reputation and finances.

  1. Fiscal Attacks

Not all DDOS attacks are aimed towards creating small time chaos. It might be hard to believe but attacks that target big organizations and companies are mostly caused or commissioned by rival organizations. Such attacks are capable of disrupting banking transactions, phone networks, emails and all digital communications platforms. This not only damages a particular company’s reputation, but will also cause massive financial losses.

  1. Smokescreen Attacks

World leaders might already be quite familiar with smokescreens since nearly everything they do is aimed at drawing people’s attention from something important. In a similar manner, hackers too stage such phony attacks on network servers. These attacks are simply meant to take the security team’s attention from a far more malicious activity. DDOS attacks are used as smokescreen to hide a larger attack such capable of bringing a major network down.

  1. Ransoming

This is where things go from bad to worse as such DDOS attacks are directly aimed at the hacker’s monetary gain. After overloading servers with illegitimate requests, these hackers often ask website owners for a ransom to stop the attacks. Since holding their webpage as hostage is the ultimate form of cybercrime, such attacks are usually staged by the most experienced hackers and cybercrime factions.

What Do Such Attacks Target?

Although such attacks have increased in frequency after Internet of Things started spreading its wings, not all DDOS attacks are same. For better understanding of such attacks, they can also be put in the following categories, based on their targets.

  1. Bandwidth Attacks

As the name says, such attacks target to constrict the network’s bandwidth than its servers. This can result in extremely sluggish internet speeds and problem in loading flash heavy content.

  1. Traffic Attacks

This simply floods the server with innumerable fake access requests that genuine requests from users get lost in transition, making the site unavailable for public. This is the most common form of DDOS attack and can also be used to stage more malevolent Trojan attacks. It is always best to keep your self-protected from such attacks by using a reliable anti-virus and firewall.

  1. Application Attacks

A more complex form of DDOS attack that targets the application layer instead of flooding the servers with fake requests. Traffic attacks can be curbed by incorporating a filter or ‘sniffer’ that can detect and stop all fake requests before they reach the server. However, application attacks are extremely hard to counter as they are difficult to detect.

We have already experienced recent DDOS attacks last month, when several websites were rendered unavailable for users. Since no particular group have taken responsibility for this action, it still shows how vulnerable internet technology can be. Therefore, it is always best to educate yourself about the various aspects of cybercrime attacks and how to protect yourself on the internet.

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