Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can be some of the easiest, yet most damaging attacks that block everyone from using your services. Websites and applications face cyber threats daily by cyber attackers who want to exploit any IT infrastructure vulnerability. Once your website or IT infrastructure is compromised, your business processes and sensitive data face imminent threats that can bring down your organization. It is vital to test your website and applications for protection against DDoS attacks. In this blog, we will cover the different types of DDoS attacks and how performing stress tests on your critical infrastructure can provide insight into how to prepare your organization for potential DDoS attacks.
What is a DDoS Attack?
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are some of the most common, notorious, and damaging cyber attacks. These attacks cause a great deal of money to organizations by bringing down their website and interrupting business processes and consumer service.
A DDoS attack is done by driving tons of fake internet traffic to the website to consume infrastructure resources and causing it to collapse or malfunction. This fake traffic interrupts normal and genuine traffic to prevent them from accessing the website or application. Attackers execute this attack either by gaining control of other compromised computers, IoT devices, and other bots forming a botnet. These remotely controlled machines send continuous requests to the targeted IP address of the victim and overflow the network and computing resources. Hence the denial of service to the normal traffic.
There may be several reasons for attackers to carry out a DDoS attack.
- Doing competitive harm by taking down essential business systems.
- As a diversion for other criminal activities such as data theft or fraud.
- As an act of revenge that is driven by personal or political factors.
- And as cruel as it may seem, just for plain “fun” or learning.
Common Types of DDoS Attacks
A DDoS attack can target any component of your network and IT infrastructure. Attackers look for the opportunity to exploit any vulnerabilities in different layers of your network. The following are some common DDoS attacks that we see very often:
Application Layer Attacks
These attacks target your network’s application layer by sending HTTP traffic load with malicious intent. When an HTTP request comes to the server, to send a response, the server performs multiple tasks such as load files, querying the database, computing the request, preparing the response, etc. With such a huge amount of traffic, the server gets overloaded, and exhausts infrastructure resources and ultimately goes down. Since it is hard to classify these requests as malicious requests, due to their nature being like actual users, the application layer DDoS attacks are hard to prevent.
These attacks bring down the service by exhausting intermediate resources like state table capacity, load balancers, firewalls, TCP handshakes, etc. For example, attackers can send a TCP handshake request for connection initialization, the server sends back the response and waits for confirmation from the client. But the client never sends the confirmation, and the server keeps waiting for it, causing the server resources to exhaust. These attacks are also called state-exhaustion attacks.
These attacks focus on eating up all the network bandwidth to block the normal traffic. This is done by sending massive data packets to your network using amplification methods, botnet, or spoofed IP addresses.
How Do DDoS Attacks Affect Your Website and Business?
The DDoS attack is a scenario where your entire website infrastructure gets interrupted. From your website credibility to revenue streams, everything is affected badly. the following are some critical fronts that are threatened by DDoS attack on your website:
DDoS attacks block normal traffic from accessing your website and cause the unannounced downtime for end users. In cases when this occurs, end users will generally get a 503 HTTP error code message. A 503 Service Unavailable HTTP status code error indicates that the server does not have the necessary resources to fulfill the request, either due to being overloaded with requests or potentially because of routine maintenance. The 503 Service Unavailable message will also typically include a message to users to “Please try again later.”
Website downtime and inaccessibility result in a negative impact on your website’s search ranking.
DDoS attacks prevent your end users from accessing your website or application’s services and resources. This creates a frustrating experience for your customer and brings down your business credibility.
A downtime for a website with monetary transactions such as e-commerce results in sales loss. And if it happens during the festive season, revenue losses are extreme.
Since DDoS attacks can bog down your entire IT infrastructure, your employees are not able to access internal resources such as email, VoIP, and other crucial resources for business processes. This puts your business operations to a halt.
Is Your Website Vulnerable to DDoS Attacks?
While there might be multiple reasons and shortcomings that attackers can use to their advantage and launch a DDoS attack, we’ll cover some of the more common mistakes businesses make that put their website and applications at risk to DDoS attacks.
- If your website uses an inexpensive hosting provider, the chances are that they have lots of customers with shared hosting, bad support, and vulnerable infrastructure. DDoS attacks on any of their customer’s websites can affect your website too, and with lousy support, you are less likely to recover timely from that.
- If you don’t have a strategy to counter the DDoS attack, you will not be able to defend your website from DDoS attack, and your response time will be higher.
- Insecure and outdated code, including third-party code, is at risk due to missing security updates.
Why Perform DDoS Stress Testing & Best Practices
DDoS attacks happen every day, and most of the time, it is hard to flag the ill-intended traffic from normal traffic. However, you can be better prepared to counter and have measures in place so that you can defend your website against DDoS attacks. Stress testing your website for DDoS scenarios will give you enough information for you to be on your guard. Here is why you should consider testing your website for DDoS protection using a stress testing solution.
- Identify and resolve website infrastructure issues and bottlenecks before the DDoS attacks.
- Find out the breaking point for your website under overload conditions and optimize for robustness.
- Planning for an incident response procedure.
- Devising DDoS mitigation and prevention strategies.
- Scaling and securing IT assets for more resilience.
- Evaluating third-party services for DDoS attack scenario.
Keeping all these things in mind, a stress test for DDoS protection should be carried out with the following practices:
- Simulate realistic floods by benchmarking known real botnets.
- Perform application-layer attack using HTTP traffic from real-browsers and devices.
- Perform volumetric attacks with unlimited size using incremental/adjustable load size.
- Utilize geo-location traffic with an adjustable load to create a realistic DDoS scenario.
LoadView: The Solution for DDoS Stress Testing
LoadView is a fully-managed cloud-based stress testing solution that you can use for testing your website for DDoS scenarios and gain extensive insights to protect your website from such attacks. Using a solution like LoadView in a controlled environment allows your organization to understand what potential DDoS mitigation efforts you may need to implement. Here is what makes LoadView a perfect choice for DDoS stress testing:
- Traffic is generated from real-browsers and devices that make a realistic scenario for application layer DDoS attacks.
- LoadView generates traffic from multiple geo-locations to further enhance your test scenarios.
- LoadView has flexible load curves features to adjust your load in real-time for volumetric stress testing.
- No programming experience is required to set up stress tests and you can get up and running with your stress tests within minutes.
- You can stress test your website, web pages, web applications, and third-party services for granular clarity against attacks.
- LoadView generates extensive performance reports that help you uncover hidden vulnerabilities and bottlenecks for improving website robustness against attacks.
Concluding Remarks: Testing DDoS Protection Using a Stress Testing Solution
The mean cost for the event of a cyberattack has increased from $44,000 to $184,000 in the last one year, with 63 percent of mid-sized businesses experiencing at least one event. This calls for having all measures in place against cyberattacks. DDoS attacks are most common attacks that websites and applications face regularly. You should adopt a stress testing solution like LoadView for testing your websites and web applications and have protection measures in place.
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