A young student sits in class nervous about an upcoming online exam that will take place third period. He is certainly unprepared, and knows that another unsatisfactory grade could result in summer school. Desperate, he runs through his options: he can take a deep breath and push through the exam, he can fake a sickness and go the nurse’s office, or he can find a way to cause an internet outage that lasts long enough to avoid his test. Although many prior generations might have chosen one of the first options, the current generation is a little more technologically sophisticated. The student opens his school issued iPad and purchases a cheap DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack from a suspicious website. Within seconds, web traffic is sent to the school’s 1 Gbps internet circuit—causing all online resources to become unavailable, allowing the student to avoid his test.
This is just one example of how a DDoS attack can be disruptive and compromise non-profit or business operations. Other motivations behind these easily created or launched attacks could include a personal vendetta by a disgruntled worker or ex-employee, a case of extortion wherein an attacker requests payment via bitcoin to stop the attack, or even just an act of “Hactivism” where a hacker takes down a website for sport or in support of a cause. Less commonly, DDoS attacks could be a result of a business rivalry, and in rare circumstances DDoS attacks could be state-sponsored or a result of cyber terrorism. Whatever the motivation may be, DDoS attacks are disruptive and create large risks to businesses.
In the case of the above school, an internet outage could not only disrupt the student and his classmates’ exam, but also the activity of the entire building. All faculty and administrators could suffer from unproductivity, and other planned class activities could be disrupted as well. In businesses where these attacks occur, the organization could literally lose money either from internal unproductivity or external denial of service to customers—especially in relation to ecommerce. According to Arbor Networks’ Worldwide Infrastructure Scrutiny Report, nearly 60% of organizations surveyed estimated their downtime costs to be about $500 per minute. The risk of these costs is certainly nothing to ignore.
In addition to the cost of downtime, sometimes attackers will use DDoS attacks to tie up the organization’s technology professionals, while they commit data theft. This can be an even larger threat for some businesses—such as banks or hospitals that house very sensitive information. Along with this theft could come negative news coverage and a tarnished security reputation, or even regulatory scrutiny if the data theft is very serious. Thus, all of these risks are just a few reasons why DDoS attacks are such a threat to business operations, and unfortunately many businesses are unprepared when an attack strikes.
Unfortunately, DDoS attacks are on the rise and cannot be easily prevented. However, they can be mitigated. DDoS mitigation is when malicious traffic is dropped by an internet service provider that regularly monitors a circuit’s web traffic, giving you the peace of mind that your business will not be helpless in the face of an attack. As these attacks become more prevalent and serious, many companies are choosing to use DDoS Mitigation to protect their business from these serious cyber threats.