What is a ‘DDoS’ attack?


DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks
What are they, how do they affect websites, why do they happen and what can be done to stop or mitigate them?
This article is a simplified explanation of this threat to websites around the world.

DDoS Attacks article header - SiteBites Blog - Hosting Updates and Info

What is DDoS?

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service and is a method of ‘attacking’ (on the internet) a website, server or data centre (where website hosting servers are housed).

As the name implies, it is a way of denying service to one or more websites and they do this by bombarding a target with so much traffic that the service cannot cope.

How does a DDoS attack affect websites?

When this traffic overload occurs as a result of a DDoS attack, the outward effect is that visitors cannot see a website, because there is too much traffic trying to reach it.

Why do DDoS attacks happen?

They happen because an attacker wishes to damage a company or website by maliciously taking the website(s) offline. The motivations for this can be ideological, political, personal, or even financial.

How do DDoS attacks happen?

The attacks are made possible by malicious parties distributing viruses to computers, in homes and businesses around the world. These viruses can be ‘activated’ by these parties whereupon they take a level of control over the computer and use it to send requests to the target website or server. If you have enough of these computers all sending requests then the volume of traffic can get extremely high.

Put simply, they happen because computer software isn’t secure enough to prevent them and these malicious parties are forever finding vulnerabilities to exploit.

What can be done to stop or mitigate DDoS attacks?

Firstly, the only way to stop them is for everyone in the world to have computers that are clean of, and impregnable to, computer viruses. This will sadly never happen.

So, at SiteBites, we and our hosting providers work very hard to detect and mitigate the effects of these attacks as soon as they begin. When an attack is detected then systems kick in to try to spread the traffic load and work is undertaken to identify the sources of the attacks and block them. This is a gross over-simplification of the enormously complex work that goes on behind the scenes by the hard working people at data centres around the world to try to keep websites online.

 

As ever, you can follow the Studio on Twitter (even if you don’t ‘use Twitter’), to get live updates about our status and how we’re working to keep you online.
twitter.com/sitebitesstudio

 

Update (6th Jan 2016 at 11:20am): The BBC recently experienced a DDoS attack like this, click here for their article on their DDoS attack. There’s also a good video on there explaining how it happened.

 

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Posted on 5th January 2016 by JJ (In the Category Blog, Hosting Updates & Info).

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