What is a DDoS attack and how does it work

A DDoS attack, also called a Distributed Denial of Service attack, is an attack in which an awful lot of traffic is sent to a computer system or network. This prevents the system from being used by the normal user.

When performing a DDoS attack, a hacker causes a large number of packets of data to be sent to the target. A computer system can always only handle a maximum number of packets. When the limit is reached, and one even exceeds it, the system can no longer function.

If a hacker manages to successfully carry out a DDoS attack, it will cause a computer system or network to be temporarily inaccessible to ordinary users. This is obviously very annoying for the victim (often a company, organization or government), as well as for the end users.

Organizations, companies and governments that become victims of a DDoS attack often lose face. They get negative press and end users are often concerned about the security of their personal data. Therefore, it is important for companies, governments and organizations to properly protect themselves from DDoS attacks. This can be done in several ways, and starts with the use of good security software that can recognize and block a DDoS attack.

How does DDoS work?

A hacker uses a botnet to generate a lot of traffic. Such a botnet consists of a large number of computers. These are computers belonging to normal users, but which contain malware. A hacker can use the malware to control all the computers to send a large number of packets to the target. Through his own computer, the hacker activates all computers that contain the malware.

The packets of data are sent over the Internet to the target's IP address. As mentioned, the target can be a central computer system or a network. Each system can only process a certain number of requests. When this goes over the limit, the system will go down. Result? You can no longer reach the network or computer system.

Layer 7, the application layer

A DDoS attack is often performed on the 7th layer of the OSI model. Just as the blockchain has several layers, traditional computer systems also have several layers. Layer 7, or layer 7, is called the application layer. The application layer provides the connection between different systems.

Because a botnet conducts its attack through layer 7, the botnet can easily impersonate an ordinary user. This makes it difficult for computer systems to distinguish a botnet from normal users.

Below we see some examples of communication methods used over layer 7. A botnet can send its traffic through these methods.

HTTP - This is the communication method used for communication between devices and Web servers.
SSL - Also called HTTPS, provides secure communication between devices.
FTP - FTP allows devices to send files between themselves and Web servers.
IMAP/POP - This is the communication method used for retrieving e-mail traffic.
SMTP - This is the communication method used for sending email traffic.

When a botnet sends a large number of HTTP files, the intended target (a Web server) thinks that a large number of users want to visit the Web site. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the botnet has only one goal in mind: to overload the Web server so that it crashes and/or shuts itself down. Once that happens, even normal users can no longer reach the Web server.

Does a DDoS attack cause permanent damage?

Fortunately, a DDoS attack does not always have to cause permanent damage. This just depends on the size of the attack and the victim's system. In some cases, quantities of data stored on a computer system can be lost. It is therefore important for organizations to back up and store data externally several times daily.

What is the purpose of a DDoS attack?

With a DDoS attack, you cannot directly capture money. When a hacker takes down a system or network, no data is leaked yet. But then what is the purpose of a DDoS attack? Even though there is no direct financial gain, a hacker may still have several reasons to carry out a DDoS attack.

Stealing money - Through a threat of a DDoS attack, a hacker can extort and blackmail a company, government or organization into paying money. When a company does not accept the offer, the hacker may decide to carry out the DDoS attack.
Ideology - We see that many DDoS attacks are often carried out out of ideology of the hacker. When a hacker or group of hackers does not agree with the vision of a company or a government decision, they may launch a DDoS attack. The goal of the DDoS attack is for the government or company to change its course.

How to protect yourself from a DDoS attack?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to prevent a DDoS attack. Someone can always decide to launch a DDoS attack. As a user of a system, you cannot protect yourself from a DDoS attack either. However, you can make sure that your device is not used to carry out a DDoS attack. Always use a good virus scanner to find and clean up malware in time.

For organizations and businesses, it is important to use good security software. An organization can thus ensure that suspicious traffic flows are flagged as attacks, after which the network can turn these traffic flows down. In that case, users will not notice anything about the attack that has been carried out on the system.

Are you being blackmailed?

Is your company or organization a victim of extortion and blackmail for a DDoS attack? If so, never respond to the hackers/criminals' request, but always contact the police immediately. Also, make sure your organization is using the right security software to prevent damage in the event of a DDoS attack.