Do You Need to Worry About DoS/DDos Attacks Taking Your Site Offline?

At one point or another we have all encountered the phrase “DDoS attack.” Usually it’s associated with a high-profile site being brought down by an individual or organization that is intent on bringing the site down. When you think about a DDoS attack, chances are you think that it’s something that other websites are at risk of and not something you yourself have to worry about. The facts couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to Global Network and Application’s Security Report, 51 percent of businesses suffered a DDoS attack in 2015 and 90 percent suffered from some form of a cyber-attack that year.

No matter how large or small your website may be, it is indeed at risk of a DDoS attack. If you want to safeguard yourself from the destruction these attacks can wreak, you need to know how to prepare for and recover from such an attack.

What Exactly is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS is an acronym for “distributed denial of service.” In a mere matter of minutes, these attacks can shut down an entire network along with services and websites. In the simplest of terms, a DDoS attack is the influx of traffic to a website. This surge in traffic overwhelms the site’s server and, as a result, the site goes offline until the issue is resolved.

While many DDoS attacks are deliberate, not all such website downtime occurs from a malicious attack on a site’s server. Sometimes a sudden spike in popularity can result in a surge of traffic that overwhelms your website’s servers, bringing your site down for the count. This can mean hours of downtime and untold amounts of profit loss.

Preparing for a DDoS Attack

Of course, it is the goal of every website to become increasingly popular and, therefore, increasingly profitable. You do, however, need to ensure that your aspirations for online success don’t cause your site to receive more traffic than it can effectively handle. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prepare for a DDoS attack, whether it be malicious or the result of your hard work to increase your site’s traffic.

One of the most powerful tools to fight against and prevent downtime due to DDoS attacks is DDoS mitigation. By utilizing a DDoS mitigation service, you can be prepared should a DDoS attack occur. These services work by deflecting network-layer DDoS traffic and absorbing application-layer DDoS traffic at the network edge, fending off attacks in the cloud before they can take your site down.

As far as preventing your site from going down due to popularity spikes, a website monitoring service can notify you of changes to your site’s traffic and performance, which may result in downtime if not addressed. If you notice your traffic is beginning to outgrow your current hosting plan, you can convert your site to a hosting plan that can accommodate the surge in growth.

You’ll also want to create a response plan. When your site is under fire, you’re not going to have the time to develop a response plan in the middle of the chaos. This is why a response plan needs to be a part of the preparation process rather than a step you take to recover from such an attack. This response plan should include whitelisting the source IPs and protocols to allow if you need to prioritize traffic, such as your larger customers, critical partners, etc.

Recovering from a DDoS Attack

If you do not have DDoS mitigation service in place, you can still take steps to minimize the downtime caused by a DDoS attack. First and foremost, while the attack is in progress, be sure to dump your log files as quickly as possible. Your firewalls, threat monitoring devices, servers, and other systems will be struggling to log each and every request. This, in and of itself, can cause a domino effect as these systems begin to fall over and create a chain reaction that negatively impacts your site’s uptime. Therefore, dumping these files will help mitigate the damage the DDoS can cause.  Once you know you are under attack, keeping your site up and running is more important than keeping these files.

You should also use available technologies, such as cloud-based Web servers, to handle the traffic overflow when high volumes of traffic strike. By putting these servers into play you can ensure the DDoS attack’s damage will be minimized.

Finally, if your site does go down due to a DDoS attack, be sure to utilize the tools you have available to you (such as social media and email lists) to communicate with your public regarding the reason for the downtime, what you are doing to fix it, how long the downtime is expected to last, and what you plan on doing to minimize the chances of future issues from arising. Transparency is the key to maintaining customer confidence when a DDoS attack causes things to go awry.