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What is a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack and How Can I Prevent it?

One of the many ways cybercriminals harass businesses is through Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks. While DOS and DDOS attacks cannot steal sensitive information, they can disrupt online services and be used to extort business owners, making them a considerable threat to Philippine businesses.

In this article, we’ll define what is a denial-of-service attack, how it differs from a DDoS attack, how to identify attacks, and share strategies and network security solutions to prevent a DoS attack.

What is a Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attack?

A Denial-of-Service attack is a strategy that aims to disrupt the availability of a company’s online services or resources by overwhelming its system, usually with an excessive volume of traffic or requests.

DoS attacks can turn information systems, devices, and other resources unusable, so organizations cannot function and potentially lose business.

A DoS attack can be costly for organizations. Companies lose productivity time and revenue for the duration of the attack, they also must invest resources to mitigate and recover from the attack, strengthen their security, and then rebuild their reputation.  

How Does a DoS Attack Work?

In a DoS attack, the attacker exploits weaknesses in the target system’s infrastructure or protocols. They flood it with an overwhelming volume of traffic or requests on top of the traffic from its legitimate users.

The high volume of malicious traffic uses the system’s bandwidth and network resources, so it slows down and fails to handle legitimate user requests. As a result, legitimate users cannot access the targeted services or resources, leading to downtime and operational disruptions. This, in turn, results in unhappy customers.

DoS attacks typically target only a specific computer or infrastructure. However, if successful, it can paralyze the system for hours or days and cause significant damage to a company.

employee encountering a DOS attack

What is the Difference Between a DoS Attack and a DDoS Attack?

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are the cousin of DoS attacks. They share the goal of disrupting online services and employ similar strategies to accomplish this goal. However, the two differ in terms of scale, complexity, and execution.

In a DoS attack, a single attacker targets one specific system or network. In contrast, a DDoS attack uses multiple compromised devices or botnets to orchestrate the assault on one or multiple systems simultaneously.

Attackers control botnets – infected host servers or machines – through a remote computer. Because of their distributed nature and the sheer volume they bring, DDoS attacks are often more difficult to mitigate. Even organizations like Google and Amazon have been subject to DDoS attacks.

Types of DoS Attacks

There are different types of DoS and DDoS attacks, each tailored to exploit specific vulnerabilities in target systems. Here are the most common types of DDoS attacks you should be aware of:

  • Ping of Death – This attack involves sending oversized or malformed data packets to the target system, causing it to crash or become unresponsive.
  • SYN Flood – This attack involves bombarding the target server with high volumes of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection requests, so it can’t process incoming legitimate connection requests.
  • UDP Flood – Here, the attacker bombards the target system with a high volume of User Dataprogram Protocol (UDP), exhausting the network’s bandwidth and disrupting network connectivity.
  • HTTP Flood – In this attack, the perpetrator overwhelms the target web server with a large volume of HTTP requests, consuming server resources so it slows down or becomes unresponsive.
  • Smurf Attack – This attack involves spoofing the victim’s IP address and broadcasting Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo requests to overwhelm the system.

How to Identify Signs of a DoS Attack?

Identifying signs of a DoS attack early is crucial for mitigating its impact and restoring service availability. Here are signs that a DoS or DDoS attack has occurred:

  • Unusually high network traffic
  • Sluggish server response times
  • Difficulty accessing servers
  • Frequented and unexpected errors or crashes
  • Multiple requests from the same IP addresses

How to Prevent DoS Attacks?

Mitigating the risk of DoS attacks requires a multiple-faceted approach encompassing proactive measures and robust security protocols. Here are five effective strategies for preventing DoS attacks for your Philippine business:

Implement Network Security Measures

You need to put up protection against external threats. Firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) monitor and filter incoming traffic, so you can block suspicious or malicious requests before they even reach your system.

Service providers like Fortinet offer comprehensive protection for all internet-facing devices that encompasses firewalls, network security, email security, antispam, VPN, web filtering, and many more. 


Implement Rate Limiting

Since DDoS attacks use high volumes of traffic to overwhelm systems or networks, it’s important to regulate the flow of incoming traffic. One technique to accomplish this is rate limiting.

Rate limiting involves regulating the number of requests or connections to your system within a time frame. This process ensures that your servers receive only the number of requests they can handle at any given time, thus avoiding sudden spikes and overloading your resources.

Deploy DOS/DDoS Protection Solutions

DOS and DDoS attacks can target different layers of your system (i.e., network layer, transport layer, session layer, etc.) so it’s crucial to deploy security solutions across these layers.

Invest in specialized DDoS protection services that employ advanced detection algorithms and traffic analysis techniques and can mitigate different types of DDoS attacks.

Reduce Attack Surface Exposure

One more strategy against DDoS attacks is reducing the surface area exposed to attackers to make it more difficult for them to infiltrate your systems. This strategy also allows you to fortify a single space better. Here are ways to do this:

  • Distribute assets across a network
  • Restrict access to your sites to locations relevant to your business
  • Place web servers and computational resources behind Content Distribution Networks (CDNs).
cybersecurity network

Minimize Vulnerabilities with Automated Penetration Testing

As with any type of cyberattack, DoS and DDoS attacks evolve, so it’s important to regularly test for and address vulnerabilities to protect your business from DDoS attacks.

You can conduct DoS and DDoS automated penetration testing to see the vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure, operating systems, applications, and device configurations, and then, of course, strengthen them.

Avoid DoS Attacks with Kital

While DoS and DDoS attacks are not as well-known as other types of cyberattacks, they remain a common and significant threat to individuals and businesses operating online. It’s important to understand what is a DoS attack, recognize the signs of a DoS or DDoS attack, and employ the best strategies to strengthen your defenses against these types of attacks.

Kital offers comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to protect your business from all types of attacks, including DDoS attacks. If you want to maintain a holistic approach to cybersecurity, contact us today.

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