VoIP Resources VoIP Fundamentals Cybersecurity

DDoS Attacks

by Margaret Joy

DDoS attacks are on the rise again. Learn about what they are and how they work relative to DoS attacks.

DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, is a type of cyberattack that aims to shut down your website, services, or other resources to disrupt business. An attack can target any network resource limit, which they pretty much all have, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll use “servers” as a catch-all term here. 

DoS vs DDoS

Distributed Denial of Service is a more advanced strategy of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. In DoS, a single system attempts to overload another system to block access to its services. DDoS has the same goal, but is more powerful. Rather than a single machine working overtime to dismantle a system, a number of linked machines run the attack—massively increasing its effectiveness and making disaster recovery more difficult.

The attack is distributed across a network of linked systems. You have likely heard the term “botnet”—that’s what this is. A robot network (see what they did there?) sending the same request over and over at the same time. All servers have a limit on requests they can handle at once. The botnet overloads the target system with requests, causing it to shut down.

Botnet DDoS

Botnets are a common tool in DDoS attacks. A Borg-like network of linked machines all hit their target with requests, overloading the resources. Now, we’re not talking about some hacker with a room full of devices. The botnet is made up of any number of IOT devices—and there are more of those each day—all infected with malware. Whomever is behind the hack remotely controls this army of zombie devices to pull off a DDoS attack. 

A simple diagram showing how botnets work.
A basic botnet structure. Diagram via International Journal of Computer Applications.

An obvious parallel would be highway traffic (please, save all LA jokes for the end, folks). But here’s one that’s a bit more on the nose. Have you ever tried to snag high-profile concert tickets and have the website crash on you? That happens because everyone is clicking buy at the exact same moment, overwhelming the website’s resources. Granted, in the pre-CAPTCHA days bots were usually to blame there too, taking all the tickets to resell. 

DDoS attacks today are increasingly used as a gateway to ransomware. Check out our dedicated blog for a deeper dive on how to handle and prevent ransomware attacks

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