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How Denial of Service Attacks are Becoming an Increasing Threat to Cybersecurity
14th May 2021

Denial of Service (DoS) cyber-attacks are on the rise, with victims ranging from individuals to large organisations. Such attacks can lead to significant disruption, with lost revenue, damaged reputation and increased costs just some of the implications. The denial of service threat has become such that many businesses are starting to realise that it is vital to take serious steps to protect their systems and data against it. Here we explore precisely what is involved in a denial of service cyber-attack, and provide advice on how to prevent one with some top cybersecurity tips.


What is a Denial of Service Attack?


Denial service attacks are deliberate attempts to disrupt access to computer networks, and prevent users from accessing the information they need. Cyber criminals may target email accounts, websites, online banking systems and even military intelligence networks in this way.


Most commonly, a DoS attack will involve a network being flooded with information so that the server capacity becomes overloaded, slowing down systems or preventing users from accessing their systems altogether.


A distributed denial of service cyber-attack (DDoS) is when an attacker makes it impossible for a service to be delivered. This tends to involve preventing access to services, servers, devices, networks and applications by sending malicious data or requests from multiple systems.


Attackers will literally drown systems with requests for data, usually by sending a web server so many requests to serve a page that it crashes, or by hitting a database with large volumes of queries. It all leads to CPU and RAM capacity and internet bandwidth becoming overwhelmed.


What are the types of denial service attacks?


There are three main types of denial of service threats:


1.     Volume-based attacks

These DoS attacks involve sending massive volumes of bogus traffic with the intention of overwhelming a website or server.


2.     Protocol or network layer attacks

These denial service attacks send lots of packets to targeted networks. Examples include SYN floods and Smurf DDoS.


3.     Application layer attacks

These cyber-attacks work by flooding applications with maliciously designed requests.


Whatever the type of DoS attack, the objective remains the same: to render online resources slow or completely unresponsive.


What motivates cyber-attackers to launch denial of services attacks?


As is the case with the majority of cybercrimes, there is financial motive behind DoS attacks. However, that’s not all that compels attackers.


Over the past few years, it has become apparent that online ‘vandalism’ is also a motivator, with attackers targeting organisations that they may have issue with, perhaps because of ethical failings.


How to identify a denial of service cyber-attack?


If a network becomes unusually slow, or goes down completely, this could be a warning sign of a DoS attack. Files and websites may take longer to open, or could be inaccessible altogether. There could be an increase in spam emails in an attempt to overwhelm an account, so as to block receipt of legitimate messages.


The best way to detect a DoS attack is through network traffic monitoring and analysis. This can be done using a firewall. It is good practice to set up rules that alert network managers when an unusual level of traffic is detected, so that they can check for an attack.


Once a denial service attack has commenced, there is little that can be done to thwart it. It is therefore best to try to mitigate the risk of such an attack occurring in the first place.


Any organisation can be susceptible to a DoS attack, whatever its industry, whatever its size. Cyber-attacks are on the rise and have been growing since the start of the pandemic, making it vital that businesses take steps to protect themselves against the denial of service threat.


How to prevent denial service attacks?


DoS attackers are constantly updating their methods and changing tactics, taking advantage of emerging vulnerabilities and orchestrating new types of attacks.


Cybersecurity specialists recommend that organisations take steps to defend their networks from hacker threats by adopting the following strategies:


  1. Monitoring of the global denial of service threat – an understanding of the latest threats being posed around the world is vital.
  2. Always installing security and system updates – security patch management is one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity.
  3. Monitoring systems and devices – ongoing monitoring makes it more straightforward to identify system anomalies as soon as they arise.
  4. Carrying out risk assessments – these help identify vulnerabilities and the potential effects of significant downtime.
  5. Ensuring firewalls are correctly configured – setting the right filters and rules will help protect networks from unauthorised access, and content filtering devices will also assist in this respect.
  6. Limiting inbound connections – if inbound connections to a mail server are allowed, this can leave it susceptible to DDoS attacks. It is also good practice to limit the size of emails and attachments to prevent overwhelming attacks.
  7. Training staff – cybersecurity awareness training is one of the best ways to prevent cyber-attacks, and is important across all organisations, whatever their size.


Preventing denial service attacks with cybersecurity expertise from PC Docs


There is no denying that DoS attacks are on the rise, and that cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tactics. But there are steps you can take to protect your business.


Here at PC Docs, we offer a comprehensive package of cyber security solutions, all of which can be tailored to suit your individual business needs and cyber risk assessment.


From anti-malware and adware systems, to firewall and antivirus setup and management, internet and spam filters and email scanning software, our services cover every base. We also offer expert advice to help you instil good cyber security habits across your organisation.


To learn how we can help keep your organisation safeguarded against all the latest cyber threats, including denial of service attacks, you are welcome to get in touch.

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