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Cyberattacks are no longer surprising in an increasingly interconnected world. Most transactions now take place online, so scammers and hackers have a bigger market to exploit. The advances in technology might mean tighter security measures, but no one is entirely safe. After all, cybercriminals will find a way to circumvent cyber protection, sooner or later. 

The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is one of the most powerful cyber weapons on the internet. This kind of attack often targets websites and online services by flooding and overwhelming their server or network with traffic so that they are rendered inoperable. Experts estimate that the number of DDoS attacks will reach 15.4 million by 2023.

Since DDoS attacks can happen to anyone, the best recourse is to remain vigilant at all times. This means being aware of the latest methods of attacking and observing caution when transacting online. It is also important to note that businesses and organisations are more vulnerable to such attacks, and the stakes are definitely higher.

Many say that prevention is always better than cure. It is vital to know what you are up against. Here are four truths about DDoS attacks in 2021 that could help you prepare for the worst. 

Bots for Hire Are the New Thing

The emergence of hijacked internet-connected devices has been wreaking havoc all over the cyber world. These devices are often injected with malware, allowing attackers to control them from a remote location. What is even more incredible is that the rightful owners are in the dark. They have no idea something they own is being used for malicious purposes.

Attackers can get away with this kind of trick because an infected computer, for example, can be used for an orchestrated DDoS attack while the owner is performing their usual tasks like browsing and surfing the Web. It might sound astonishing, but imagine how these bots can be hired. Such services can be acquired through auction and traded among attackers.

What is more, the services usually come with a toolkit and a distribution network, making it all the more convenient for cyber criminals to launch a DDoS attack. While this kind of attack is commonly used to extort money from organisations and businesses, some unsavoury individuals can also utilise botnets-for-hire to knock a website offline, discredit a rival, or exact revenge. 

Another Massive DDoS Blackout Could Be on the Horizon

The 2016 Dyn cyberattack took some of the biggest websites offline. Amazon, Reddit, Twitter, Netflix, and the BBC were all affected. The attackers made use of millions of compromised IoT devices to flood Dyn’s DNS service with overwhelming traffic.

This highlights the need for more secure IoT devices. Most IoT devices, after all, are insecure and hard to patch. This means that another DDoS attack on this scale could be in store and might cause more severe damage. Many experts point to the growing centralisation of DNS into a small number of hands. A lot of companies outsource their DNS to the cloud. Once cybercriminals successfully attack the provider, all hell could break loose. 

Multiple Targets Could Be Hit through Pulse Waves

A new assault pattern came to the attention of experts in 2017. The tactic is called pulse wave DDoS, designed to multiply a botnet’s output. This attack comes in short-lived bursts in clockwork-like succession, often lasting for days. Like the waves, the build-up is gradual, but it can lead to a peak that slowly comes down, only to repeat the process.  In a matter of seconds, a 300Gbps botnet could be mobilised. The simultaneous attacks can congest the network pipe right away, and the sustained and accurately persistent assault can shut down networks completely.

Through the pulse wave DDoS, attackers manage to hit two birds with one stone by pinning down multiple targets. Experts believe this kind of attack is organised by skilled bad actors who want to exhibit complete control over their target’s resources, especially if the DDoS mitigation utilises the ‘appliance first, cloud second’ hybrid approach. While this solution can be very effective when dealing with DDoS assaults that take time to build up, it can be detrimental when the attack peaks quickly.

Application Layer DDoS Attacks Are on the Rise

Often called seven layer attacks, application layer DDoS attacks usually target not only applications but also the network and bandwidth. This attack involves levelling DNS services, HTTP, and HTTPS. A new variant of Mirai malware is being used to launch such attacks, and they are notably growing in frequency and persistence. Added to that, application layer attacks are relatively cheaper to carry out while being decidedly harder to detect.

The best way to deal with this kind of assault is to ramp the capacity of DDoS solutions to not only detect but also mitigate attacks, whether they are large or small.

Wrapping it up

DDoS attacks are not new. They have been around for a while and have grown more sophisticated just as technology advances. So, it’s only sensible for businesses and organisations to be prepared at all times. Security solutions must be constantly assessed, evaluated, and improved. It’s imperative to keep up with the evolving methods of DDoS attacks that cybercriminals exploit.

By Filip Nikoloski