Authored by a Symantec employee

 

A distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attack is one of the most powerful weapons on the Internet. When you hear about a website being “brought down by hackers” it means that it’s become a victim of a DDoS attack. In short, this means that hackers have attempted to make a website or computer unavailable by flooding or crashing the website with too much traffic.

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What Are the Symptoms of a DDoS?

DDoS attacks have definitive symptoms. The problem is that the symptoms are so much like other issues you might have with your computer, ranging from a virus to a simple slow Internet connection, that it can be hard to tell without professional diagnosis. The symptoms of a DDoS include:

  • Slow access to files, either locally or remotely.
  • A long-term inability to access a particular website.
  • Internet disconnection.
  • Problems accessing all websites.
  • Excessive amounts of spam emails.

As you can see, most of these are hard to identify as being anything out of the ordinary problems one might face when using the Internet. However, if two or more are occurring over long periods of time, you might be a victim of a DDoS.

How Does a DDoS Work?

DDoS attacks use a few different methods to achieve their madness, but they all basically boil down to one core method. DDoS attacks attempt to flood a computer and make it so it can’t do it’s job. It bogs the machine down with too much information, sometimes making it so the actual hardware is damaged.

The good news is that most victims of DDoS attacks are banks, government

websites and other high-profile targets offering political or financial gain.

The chances of you or a website you run becoming a victim of a DDoS attack are pretty slim. Still, it never hurts to defend yourself against cyberattacks and a DDoS is no exception.

How to Protect Yourself Against DDoS Attacks

There are several ways to protect yourself against being the victim of a DDoS attack, or becoming an unwilling participant in one:

  • Having a firewall is an essential part of any Internet security plan. Not only will it prevent you from becoming a victim of a DDoS, or taking part in one, it will also help protect you from most dangers present on the Internet.
  • Another essential piece of Internet security is having a full Internet security suite. This won’t do much to prevent you from becoming DDoSed, but it will keep you from becoming an unwilling participant of a botnet attack.
  • When you get an Internet security suite, you need to keep it updated. In fact, keeping your Internet security suite, operating system and applications fully updated is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of any kind of attack from hackers.
  • Some routers come with DDoS protection built in. If you’re particularly concerned with becoming a victim of a DDoS attack, look for a router with this kind of protection.
  • If you run a website, shop around for hosting services with an eye toward security.

Remember, your chances of becoming a victim of a DDoS attack—or any other kind of direct attack from hackers—is very low. However, it gets a lot lower by taking simple, common-sense precautions when it comes to your online security. Hackers tend to seek out low-hanging fruit. If you can hang just a little higher, they’re going to bother someone else.

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