Understanding DDoS Attacks: What You Need to Know

Have you ever visited a site only to discover it’s down and thousands of others are trying to reach it with no luck? Sometimes, it’s due to maintenance, but DDoS attacks are to blame at an ever-increasing rate. They’ve already put giants like Google and Amazon Web Services to a standstill, not to mention countless less prominent organizations that may not be able to bounce back as quickly.

Want to know more about what DDoS attacks are, what damage they cause, and what you can do not to become part of the problem? We have the answers below.

What Are DDoS Attacks?

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Services and denotes an effective cyberattack targeting networks, servers, and services. Distributed in this context means the attack originates from multiple sources, which amplifies its intensity and effectiveness.

Denial of service refers to the attack’s goal – to swamp the target with so much traffic that it becomes impossible to service legitimate requests. Websites suffering a DDoS attack load sluggishly or not at all. Such attacks may go on for hours, even days.

The Devastating Impact of DDoS Attacks

Various forms of cybercrime increase in complexity and severity each year. DDoS attacks follow a similar disturbing pattern. This attack type has experienced a 200% annual increase from 2022 to 2023, with no signs of letting up. Frequency is only part of the statistic – the most recent DDoS attacks take up more bandwidth and last longer. Consequently, they’re costlier and difficult to deal with. Especially now that their creators are leveraging AI to orchestrate device takeovers.

Telecommunication companies were the most affected since disrupting their services caused the most widespread damage. The popular targets are financial institutions, government agencies, online retailers, healthcare institutions, and the media. However, this doesn’t mean smaller businesses or individual users are safe.

How Do DDoS Attacks Happen?

Before a DDoS attack becomes possible, its creators must seize and repurpose enough computing resources. This usually involves infecting computers and an increasing number of IoT devices with malware. The malware creates backdoor access to the infected devices, allowing remote control over them.

Once they establish that control, attackers coordinate swarms of devices into connected networks called botnets. Such interconnectivity allows the botmaster to carry out sophisticated attacks with minimal input, avoid detection, and change strategies to confuse and overwhelm the victim. There are three main types of DDoS attacks. They all strip the target of its resources but do so in different ways.

Volumetric attacks flood the target with data, eating up its bandwidth. The network or website can’t maintain its connection to the internet and becomes unresponsive.

Protocol attacks focus on the third and fourth network connectivity layers. These are responsible for determining which paths data takes and which protocols to use when transferring it. Exploiting weaknesses in these layers creates a resource shortage, leading to inaccessibility.

Application layer attacks affect the topmost connectivity layer that handles user requests and causes servers to generate websites. These repeated HTTP requests drown out other traffic, making it hard or impossible for genuine users to interact with a site.

How to Protect Yourself from DDoS Attacks?

Developing a comprehensive defense against DDoS attacks can be tricky. Some, like application layer attacks, are hard to pinpoint and distinguish from real traffic spikes that may happen during peak times. Moreover, there’s a difference between safeguarding networks and servers as well as preventing devices from becoming parts of a botnet.

Entities with sizable networking services handle the threats by installing web application firewalls and implementing load balancers. The former identifies traffic from malicious sources and limits its server access. The latter distributes the load equally among multiple servers, ensuring no single one gets overloaded.

Not becoming part of a botnet means practicing cybersecurity hygiene for all your devices. A key step is using a reputable password manager suitable for your operating system to create unique and complex passwords for your accounts.

Sharing passwords is risky since attackers can use credential stuffing to take over multiple accounts. Protecting email accounts from these attacks is crucial since compromised ones can send messages to contacts containing links to malware. These can increase the size of a botnet exponentially if clicked.

An IP address is enough to execute DDoS attacks on individuals. While rare, these incidents can disrupt internet services and cause distress. The best way of mitigating the threat is to route your internet traffic through a VPN. Doing so masks your IP address and encrypts internet traffic, making you anonymous and not worth the effort to target.

However, be careful about which VPN provider you choose before you purchase subscriptions. While some have strong encryption capabilities, others might not be as reliable. To compare your options, use Reddit’s VPN comparison table and find the one that fits your value, price, and performance criteria.


Like so many of its peers, DDoS attacks are an evolving cyber threat organizations and individuals alike should take seriously. Understanding their inner workings and taking appropriate protective measures is the only way to manage their disruptive potential effectively.

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