Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are prevalent and on the rise. Victims of these orchestrated attacks range from major financial institutions to individuals attempting to access their personal email. These attacks can cause significant damage, in terms of lost revenue and increased costs, for organizations of all sizes and across all industries. Some organized cyber criminals steal and launder money while others cause users to experience online and mobile services outages, preventing them from accessing their own funds.
In today’s climate of increasing cyber crime, many businesses are cognizant of the fact that it’s no longer a question of “if” a Denial of Service attack will occur – rather, it’s “when.”
What is a Denial of Service Attack?
DoS attacks are deliberate attempts to disrupt and keep legitimate users from accessing information systems. Cyber criminals may target websites and email accounts, online banking systems or even military intelligence networks.
The most common way to deploy a DoS attack is by flooding a network with information to overload server capacity, slowing down the system or causing a complete blockage of access by legitimate users.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
While a DoS attack typically targets an information system, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks utilize individual computers to achieve the same objective of slowing down a system and make it unavailable to users. In a DDoS attack, targeted computers are controlled by the hacker, and programmed to send out huge amounts of data to a particular website, or spam emails to other users. With DDoS, cyber criminals use multiple computers to carry out an attack.
Motivation Behind Denial of Service Attacks
As with most cyber crimes, financial motives have traditionally been behind most of the DoS attacks that businesses face. However, in the past few years, cybersecurity professionals have observed additional motivations, such as online “vandalism,” that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in network cybersecurity, and ideological attacks, known as “hacktivism.” Hacktivists attack organizations for a reason other than financial gain; typically, they are making a statement about what the company does or doesn’t do.
How to Recognize Denial of Service Attacks
Businesses might suspect they’re under a DoS attack when their network becomes unusually slow or goes down completely. Files and websites take longer to open, or are completely inaccessible. Individuals under attack often see an increase in spam email messages, which overwhelm their accounts and block receipt of legitimate messages.
Once DoS and DDoS attacks begin, there is not much that can be done to stop them. Therefore, the best way to mitigate risk is to prepare for and prevent these calculated attacks before they happen.
Cybersecurity Tips That Can Help Prevent DoS Attacks
Any organization could be vulnerable to cyber attacks, because there are always new threats, and the number of cyber criminals is on the rise. DoS attackers continually change their tactics, capitalizing on known vulnerabilities and creating new combinations of attacks. Cybersecurity experts recommend organizations defend networks from hackers through risk-mitigating procedures, including:
- Monitor The Global Threat Landscape: Understanding the latest trends in DoS attacks is crucial.
- Update Patches: Keep servers and applications up-to-date with security patches. Patch management is one of the most critical aspects of network vulnerability management.
- Monitor Systems and Devices: Continuous monitoring makes it easier to recognize system abnormalities.
- Perform Risk Assessments: Identify vulnerabilities to critical systems and the effects of any significant downtime.
- Ensure Firewalls Are Properly Configured: Proper rules and filters can protect networks from unauthorized access. Content filtering devices and other perimeter protections can also help.
- Educate Developers: Make sure software developers are up to speed on the risks of inadequately written code.
- Limit Inbound Connections: Unlimited inbound connections to a mail server leave it vulnerable to DDoS attacks. In addition, limiting the size of emails and attachments can help prevent certain incidents.
- Implement Training: Cybersecurity awareness training for network users can help protect vulnerable systems in organizations of all sizes.
Prevention in the Face of Increased Denial of Service Threats
There is little doubt that DoS attacks are increasing, and cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated. But that doesn’t mean they have to win. Cybersecurity professionals have the expertise to help organizations of all sizes prevent these attacks, saving untold millions of dollars in direct losses and associated costs every year. Cybersecurity training provides the skill and knowledge required to understand risk, mitigate exposure and prevent future attacks.