DDoS – what they are and how to stop them

What is a DDoS attack?

DDoS means Distributed Denial of Service and is a type of attack that consists of using many computers to connect to a single service at the same time. In terms of websites, the purpose is to overwhelm the hosting server with so many requests for a website that it can’t cope and prevents the website from loading.

If you imagine rush hour on a road – a motorway that can normally handle lots of cars throughout the day, becomes congested when¬†everyone leaves work at the same time because it just isn’t able to deal with that much traffic over such a short period of time.

Interestingly, a denial of service can also be caused by a spike in normal site traffic. If you get featured on a large news site then the extra traffic can cause all of the same issues as a malicious attack!

How and why do they work?

One of the most common ways of performing one of these attacks is to remotely control a series of computers around the world that are infected with a virus.

The difficulty with a DDoS attack is that it can be very difficult to predict or even stop because the connections aren’t just coming from one computer. A DoS attack is the same idea as a DDoS attack but it comes from one source so as soon as that is blocked then the entire attack will end.

This, and the fact that they don’t require any fancy equipment, makes them incredibly common and difficult to stop.

How do you stop a DDoS attack?

Web hosts have to deal with these attacks regularly. Anyone could take a disliking to a site on their servers or simply want to test their skills.

A group of servers protected by a load balancer/firewall.

A group of servers protected by a load balancer/firewall.

Most web hosting companies will use load-balancing servers and firewalls to handle the traffic coming to them before they even reach the servers with the websites on them. The idea is that these are specifically designed to handle LOTS of incoming connections and then send them where they need to go. This allows a host to allow normal traffic through while preventing malicious traffic from causing any damage. It isn’t instant and can take a while for administrators to identify the malicious traffic to block it.

Other than that there is very little you can do to stop a DDoS attack. The best method is to try to prevent it in the first place. Good practice in using anti-virus software, updating your computer and protecting your passwords will help prevent your computer from being used as one of the systems in an attack.

If you think you’re a victim of a DDoS attack, let your web host or web designer¬†know as soon as you can so that they can handle it quickly.

If you have any questions or want to talk to us about how DDoS attacks could more specifically affect your WordPress site then please get in touch!

Scott is the Managing Director at Illustrate. His main focus is to cast vision and concentrate on our future growth, as well as looking after our customers and generally managing our effectiveness and value as a web design agency. He's also great at presenting new ideas and being picky about the design of everything we do. He performs best in building relationships with other people and in his spare time rides a Honda VTR motorbike, is a huge Cardiff Devils fan and loves spending time volunteering at Freedom Church in Cardiff.