No matter what type of website you run, there’s a good chance you rely on your server to be up and running on a daily basis. Perhaps you count on your site for ad revenue, or maybe you even run an eCommerce site that brings in profits via web sales. Either way, if your server were to be taken down by a web attack, what would this mean for your website’s profits? You must also consider the effect that unplanned server downtime can have on your site’s reputation; even just a few hours of downtime can tarnish your site’s reputation and prevent users from coming back.
Unfortunately, DDoS attacks are quickly becoming one of the most common sources of server downtime these days. By having a better understanding of how these attacks work and what you can do to protect your site, you can hopefully avoid becoming a victim yourself.
Understanding DDoS Attacks and How They Work
DDoS stands for “distributed denial of service.” These attacks essentially operate by targeting a specific website and flooding it with fake web traffic. In large enough amounts, this fake web traffic can overwhelm and confuse a dedicated server, ultimately resulting in slow loading times and even complete crashing of the server itself.
DDoS attacks can vary greatly in their size and scope, ranging anywhere from a few gigabits per second to several hundred gigabits per second. The larger the attack, the more likely it will be successful in taking an entire server down.
Recent Victims of DDoS Attacks Have Been Major Players
Over the past couple of years, DDoS attacks have only gotten larger and more serious. Even major players such as the United States Library of Congress’ servers have fallen victim to these types of attacks. For example, in 2016, the Library of Congress suffered an attack of several hundred gigabits that left the entire website down and prevented library employees from being able to access their email accounts, because they all operated on the same server.
The BBC’s website was also taken down in 2015 by an attack that was a massive 600 gigabits per second. Due to the size of this attack, it is unlikely that any website or server would have been able to “survive” the attack without significant problems or downtime.
These are just a couple examples of some of the more recent and newsworthy DDoS attacks that have occurred. One trend that is worth pointing out is that these attacks are only getting larger in size, and this is a trend that is likely to continue in the future. As a result, no website or server is likely to be 100% safe.
Protecting Your Site Against DDoS Attacks
While you may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of your site/server falling victim to a DDoS attack, there are some preventative measures you can take. For starters, check with your web hosting company to find out if you have any DDoS protection on your account at this point in time. If not, then it may be time to add this protection to your account. Many web hosting companies these days offer their own DDoS protection packages to suit your needs. For example, if you have a smaller website that does not need extensive protection, you might opt for coverage against attacks around 10 gigabits per second to 100 gigabits per second. On the other hand, if your site is higher profile and therefore a larger potential target, it may be in your best interest to opt for protection against even larger attacks.
How does DDoS protection work? Essentially, these protection packages act as a “filter” for all traffic coming into your website. Traffic that is determined to be illegitimate is kept out, whereas your regular traffic can continue to access your site seamlessly.
Being aware of the signs of a DDoS attack and reporting them to your web host as soon as they occur can also help protect your site from long-term downtime. One of the most common “red flags” of a DDoS attack to watch out for is that of slow page loading times, which could indicate that your site is currently under attack. In some cases, you may even receive reports from website visitors that they are having trouble accessing your site altogether. If you encounter any signs of a DDoS attack on your site, it is important to let your web host know as soon as possible to mitigate damages.