DDoS Attack: What It Is And How To Trace A DDoS Attack?

Today, a DDoS attack has become a common phenomenon and a severe headache to internet resource owners worldwide. Therefore, it is important to use a reliable method of protection from this type of cyber-attack for those who want to avoid downtime, massive losses, and damaged reputation.

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Today, we’ll talk in depth about DDoS attacks and try to answer how to trace a DDoS attack yourself.

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The issue of a DDoS attack

DDoS or distributed denial of service is a malicious attack on an information system. It is aimed at stopping the system from processing user requests. Such an attack suppresses a web resource or server by using multiple sources to overwhelm the system and make the server unavailable for normal requests. If you think that this type of attack is most often used against large companies and government agencies, you are mistaken. DDoS attacks can occur equally with an ordinary user, as well as with the management of a large company.

What is a DDoS attack

This type of attack is similar to another Internet threat – Denial of Service (DoS). The main difference is that in the case of DoS the attack comes from a single source, while DDoS attacks are triggered by multiple sources at once, making them much harder to protect against.

The main goal of denial of service attacks is to block the operation of a particular site. In addition, DDoS attacks can serve as a distraction from another, more significant cyber-attack.

The main reasons for DDoS attacks

  • Personal dislike. Simple animosity often prompts attackers to attack corporations or government agencies. For example, in 1999, the FBI’s websites were attacked for several weeks. It happened because the FBI had begun a large-scale raids on known and suspected hackers.
  • Political protest. Usually, such attacks are carried out by hacktivists – IT specialists with radical views on civil protest. A well-known example is a series of cyberattacks on Estonian government institutions in 2007. Their probable cause was the deep controversy at the time over the relocation of the Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn.
  • Entertainment. Today, an increasing number of people are interested in DDoS and want to try their hand at it. Novice hackers often stage attacks to amuse themselves.
  • Extortion and blackmail. Before launching an attack, the hacker contacts the resource owner and demands a ransom.
  • Competition. DDoS attacks can be ordered by an unethical company to negatively impact one or more of its competitors.

Who are the potential victims?

DDoS can destroy sites of any scale, from ordinary blogs to major corporations, banks, and other government institutions.

According to research, the attacks can cost the company up to $1.6 million. This is serious damage because the attacked web resource can’t be used for some time.

Most often, these types of sites and servers suffer from DDoS attacks:

  • large companies and government agencies
  • financial institutions (banks, management companies)
  • coupon services
  • medical institution
  • payment systems
  • media and information aggregators
  • online stores and e-commerce businesses
  • online games and gaming services
  • cryptocurrency exchanges

Not so long ago, the sad list of frequent victims of DDoS attacks was joined by Internet-connected equipment, commonly called the “Internet of things” (IoT). The IoT is increasingly becoming both a victim and a source of such attacks. The largest growth dynamics in this direction are cyberattacks to disrupt the online sales systems of large stores or shopping centers.

Work mechanism

All web servers have their own limits on the number of requests they can process simultaneously. In addition, there is a limit on the bandwidth of the channel connecting the network and the server. To overwhelm these restrictions, malicious hackers create a computer network with malicious software, called a “botnet” or “zombie network.”

Example of DDoS attack

To create a botnet, cybercriminals distribute a “Trojan” virus via e-mail, social networks, or websites. Computers that are part of the botnet do not have a physical connection to each other. They are united only by “serving” the goals of the host hacker.

A hacker sends commands to the “infected” zombie computers during a DDoS attack, and they begin to attack. The botnet generates a huge amount of traffic that can overload any system. The main objects for DDoS are usually the server’s bandwidth, DNS server, and the internet connection itself.

Signs of a DDoS attack

When these malicious actions achieve their goal, you can immediately determine this by failures in the server or the hosted resource. But there are several indirect signs that you can detect about a DDoS attack at the very beginning.

  • Server software and OS start to fail frequently and clearly — hang, incorrectly shut down, and so on.
  • A sharply increased load on the server’s hardware capacity, which differs from the average daily indicators.
  • A rapid increase in incoming traffic on one or more ports.
  • Multiple duplicated client actions of the same type on the same resource (going to the site, uploading a file).
  • When analyzing logs (of user actions) of the server, firewall, or network devices, many requests of the same type from different sources to the same port or service were detected. You should be especially wary if the audience for requests differs sharply from the target audience for the site or service.

Classification of DDoS attacks

Protocol offensive (transport level)

A DDoS attack is directed at the network layer of a server or web resource, often referred to as a network layer or transport layer attack. Its purpose is to overload tablespace on a firewall with a built-in security log, a central network, or a load-balancing system.

The most common DDoS method at the transport level is network flooding, creating a huge stream of dummy requests at different levels that the receiving node cannot physically handle.

During an attack, the number of requests increases so much that the device does not have enough resources to complete the first request. As a result, the flood maximally saturates the bandwidth and completely clogs all communication channels.

Types of DDoS attacks

Common types of network flooding:

  • HTTP — A mass of normal or encrypted HTTP messages is sent to the attacked server, clogging communication nodes.
  • ICMP — The attacker’s botnet overloads the victim’s host machine with service requests, to which it is required to provide echo responses.
  • SYN — These attacks affect one of the basic mechanisms of the TCP Protocol, known as the “triple handshake” principle (the “request-response” algorithm: SYN packet – SYN-ACK packet – ACK packet).
  • UDP — Random ports of the victim’s host machine are flooded with UDP packets, the responses to which overload network resources. A type of UDP flood directed to the DNS server is called a “DNS flood.”
  • MAC — Targets are network hardware whose ports are clogged with streams of “empty” packets with different MAC addresses.

Attacks at the application level

These include such a common attack as “Ping of Death” — mass sending of ICMP packets of greater length to the victim’s computer, causing buffer overflow.

  • DNS attacks

The first group focuses on vulnerabilities in DNS server. These include such common types of cybercrimes as “Zero-Day Attack” and “Fast Flow.”

One of the most common types of DNS attacks is called DNS spoofing. In this type of attack, hackers replace the IP address in the server cache, redirecting the user to a fake page. During the transition, the criminal gets access to the user’s personal data and can use it to their advantage. 

For example, in 2009, because of DNS spoofing, users could not log in to Twitter for an hour. This attack was political. Iranian attackers redirected users to warnings related to American aggression.

The second type of DNS attack is the DDoS attacks that cause DNS servers to fail. If they fail, the user will not go to the desired page, because the browser will not find the IP address specific to the site.

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How to trace a DDoS attack?

How do you know that your site has been attacked? There are several signs such as the error 503 of HTTP and the wrong usage of bandwidth.

To make sure if your site has been attacked, just log into your account and open Cpanel (a web hosting control panel). At the end of the page you’ll find the “Logs section,” where you should select “Bandwidth.”

The method of how to trace a DDoS attack

The next image that you can see has two scenarios:

Without an attack. When an attack has not occurred, the bandwidth graph for the last day looks like a relatively constant line, with several peaks.

With an attack. If your site has been hit by a DDoS attack, you will see a sharp jump in the bandwidth graph. This anomaly will be observed for more than an hour.

If you detect a DDoS attack, you should not waste a minute and act very quickly, since attacks consume a lot of network bandwidth, and can harm other clients as well.

-How to stop a DDoS attack?

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to stop a DDoS attack. The best method is to contact your web hosting provider. It will block all HTTP requests that have been sent to your web server. This action helps to unload and close the server and prevents attacks on other clients.

Such an attack requires large hacker resources and usually last no more than one hour. So, you need to wait for the end of attack. However, after the attack is complete, you will be able to fully return to work.

How to prevent DDoS attacks?

According to Corero Network Security, more than two-thirds of all companies worldwide are subject to “denial of access” attacks every month.

Owners of sites that do not provide DDoS attack prevention methods may suffer huge losses and reduce customer confidence and competitiveness.

The most effective way to protect against DDoS attacks is filters installed by the provider on internet channels with high bandwidth. They perform a sequential analysis of all traffic and detect suspicious network activity or errors. Filters can be installed either at the router level or using special hardware devices.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from any DDoS attack:

  1. Carefully check the software for errors and vulnerabilities.
  • Update the software regularly, and make sure that you can go back to the old version if you encounter problems.
  • Watch for access restrictions. Services related to administration must be completely closed from third-party access. Protect your admin account with complex passwords and change them more often.
DDoS attack prevention

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  • The administrator interface must be accessed exclusively from the internal network or via a VPN.
  • Scan the system for vulnerabilities.
  • Use the firewall for the application of the WAF (Web Application Firewall). It scans the transmitted traffic and monitors the legitimacy of requests.
  • Use Utopia P2P Ecosystem (Utopia Network). This is an anonymous ecosystem that uses a peer-to-peer architecture. It works as a decentralized system that operates through a distributed network. Traffic is sorted across multiple servers, making it harder for a DDoS attack to overwhelm the network’s resources
  • Use protection from spambots, such as CAPTCHA and re CAPTCHA (“I am not a robot” checkmark), “human” time frames for filling out forms, and so on.

It is important to remember that malicious actions can disable even the most secure and most extensive web resources. It can entail severe consequences in the form of huge losses and loss of customers. 

Protecting your resource is an urgent task for all businesses and government agencies.


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