As I write this the WikiLeaks site is being hit by a DDoS attack although you don’t have to be a high profile as WikiLeaks to get hit. If you’ve got a business that has significant traffic online, and you don’t know what a DDoS attack is, then you should probably continue reading. The best time to learn how to prevent DDoS attacks is now. Not only have sites like WikiLeaks been affected, but just last month the torrent site Demonoid was knocked offline and made in accessible for millions of users for days. Users going to the Demonoid site were met with a “server busy” message which mentioned technical difficulties to users trying to connect.
When I was in college, “hacktivism” was common and students were (and probably still are) using their systems to join in attacks for causes they believed in. These were also DDos “attacks.”
Today, the Demonoid URL is for sale. Any takers?
A Sample Case
The Los Angeles company Growthink was a victim of a DDoS attack in September 2011 which put the site out for several days. BlockDos, a DDoS protection firm, was hired to solve the problem. The overall cost for Growthink was an estimated $50,000.
A “distributed denial-of-service” attack is one in which typical users can’t access a site because hackers have taken over other systems to attack the one selected target site. This essentially puts the target site out of service. This target site becomes overloaded with what it thinks is genuine user traffic when it fact it’s just being overwhelmed with hits that overwhelm the servers.
What Are The Typical Targets?
While businesses that rely on heavy web traffic are the most at risk, it’s not always clear why certain companies or sites are chosen as victims. In the WikiLeaks case, it’s being reported that a group called “Anti Leaks” is behind the assault. WikiLeaks is reporting that it is being attacked by 10 gigabits per second of traffic. Expert firms have even noted that unhappy former employees, competitors, hacktivists, and extortionists may be behind attacks. One company in particular received an email when the initial attack began and the email contained a demand for $3,500. This blackmail resulted in that site being knocked offline for one week.
As was the case with Demonoid, sometimes internal company resources are limited and some companies simply don’t have the knowledge, experience, time or manpower to address an attack. In the case of Demonoid, the administrator said, “Our human resources became limited in the last few months. All tech issues are handled just by me now and there is no one else to take the job. I’ll fix the site as soon as possible, but it might be a while this time.”
Growthink ended up hiring a security firm, BlockDos, to resolve the issue and to help protect it from any future attacks. It even changed hosting services to a better suited and more professional high-profile outfit. CloudFlare is a San Francisco based security firm that also has much experience with DDoS attacks. It’s noted a particularly substantial increase in DDoS traffic since launching.