As a business owner, you have a responsibility to provide an excellent experience to your online customers. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are difficult to avoid because your own servers don’t need to be compromised for the hack to work.
Rather than trying to put damaging files onto your computer, a DDoS attack creates an incredible amount of pointless activity such as reloading web pages to clog up the traffic on your website. This can make it impossible for real users to access the site.
Moreover, without threat detection systems in place, it is virtually impossible for organizations to identify the attack and react on time.
This is just one of the steps you can take to protect yourself, but you first need to understand the nature of attacks to improve your overall security.
Why Hackers Use Denial of Service Attacks
DDoS attacks are a destructive force on the internet. Blocking service to a website interrupts a business and can cause a substantial revenue loss.
This is a great way for an unethical person to disrupt a competitor’s business. A business owner can take the competition offline so that customers will come to them instead. It isn’t a proper way to act, but it happens all the time.
Most attacks are timed to do the most damage. For example, it’s common for a website to get DDoSed right when they launch a new product or service. That’s the most devastating time for the site to go down.
How DDoS Attacks Happen
Setting up a DDoS requires access to a lot of computing power. That’s the only way to create so much internet activity that you can meaningfully disrupt another person’s web servers.
It would be prohibitively expensive for most people to rent out that much computer power. Besides, it might be hard for a hacker to find a cloud service provider that will facilitate such destructive behavior. Therefore the hackers need to find an alternative means of accessing computers.
Most denial of service attacks are the result of botnets. Hackers distribute malware to as many internet-connected devices as possible, including small IoT devices. Then each of these computers is compromised and used as a cloud to execute the attack.
Protecting Yourself From Cyber Attacks
The first element of being safe from DDoS is to make sure your computers don’t get compromised themselves. The last thing that you want is to have your computing power hijacked as part of somebody else’s DDoS botnet. That would both slow down your own operations and contribute to other people’s’ misfortune.
Make sure to keep up with all basic computer security precautions for your business. Run antivirus software at least once per month on all of your systems to detect and eliminate potential malware. Don’t allow anybody to download new files to the system without explicit permission from an administrator.
Above all else, change your passwords. Every password on your system should be unique and random. Never use guessable passwords. The majority of the world’s high profile hacks are the result of bad passwords, not savvy code.
Surviving Attacks Aimed at Your Server
It’s harder to mitigate the effects of an attack that is aimed at your server without the protection of a secure data center that offers server solutions with DDoS protected hosting included.
When there is a large botnet of computers all trying to load and reload your pages as fast as they can, your service will suffer.
The first sign of a DDoS will be an influx of phone calls and emails from customers who cannot access the site. After enough of these come in, your team will realize that something is wrong. It won’t take long for your IT team to identify that a denial of service attack is taking place.
Be wary of a double attack. Sometimes DDoSes are used as a distraction from another hack attempt, such as somebody trying to steal passwords or customer information. Never break your normal security protocols to try and end a DDoS.
Call your web hosting provider and explain what is happening. They should be able to adjust your service to help mitigate the DDoS. For example, the provider could temporarily increase your server power until the attack subsides.
Inform your customers about what is going on. If you have an email list, this is a good time to use it. Let them know that there’s a small issue with the website and that your team is working to fix it as soon as possible.
Preventing for the Future
You can enlist several techniques and services to improve your cybersecurity. For one thing, make sure you have more than enough bandwidth on your website. If you are regularly near full capacity for your site, it is too easy for a small DDoS to take you offline.
Consider paying for a third-party anti-DDoS service to protect your website. Companies like Cloudflare and Akamai offer special protection that makes it harder for hackers to execute a DDoS against you. For example, a pre-site loading page from a third party can filter out the malicious traffic.
In addition to this, you should make sure you build a battle-ready infrastructure. Whether you are storing your data and applications on private or public clouds, you should ensure they follow recommended security best practices and standards. This is especially important if you store sensitive documents, such as in the healthcare or medical field.
Invest in proper crisis training for your IT staff. If your team is up-to-date on the latest DDoS methods and preventative measures, they will be able to keep you safe. Continuing education goes a long way in the digital space.
Should Small Businesses Worry?
Small companies are known for a lack of strategies to protect against cybersecurity attacks. This is mostly due to the fact that they believe such businesses hardly ever encounter DDoS attacks. Although these attacks are still most frequently targeted to large businesses, SMBs are increasingly becoming targets.
In fact, recent reports suggest that a third of small businesses were hit by a DDoS attack in 2016. Their lack of protection and security systems makes them easy targets, so it is no wonder they suffer severe consequences.
With that said, it is still important to stay informed. Knowing that your business has its digital security in place to handle the worst case scenario is an important part of doing business.
You Can Protect Your Business
Do what you need to do to stay safe from attacks.
Your customers shouldn’t have to suffer from poor web service, so build a robust system that can stay up even in times of difficulty. If you invest a bit of time and energy into cybersecurity, you can protect your business from DDoS threats.