What Are DDoS Attacks?
The risk of DDoS attacks is nothing new: it has been a known quantity in the IT industry for a long time. A decade ago, businesses didn’t take DDoS attacks as seriously. Then, DDoS attacks were assumed to be mainly perpetrated by amateur hackers showing off their new tricks for fun. These attacks were mostly minor, so it was relatively easy for business IT support to mitigate them.
Unfortunately, that time has long passed. Now, DDoS attacks can be so complex, sophisticated, and disruptive that you can no longer dismiss them. The threat DDoS attacks pose to small and medium-sized businesses is numerous. And the most worrying thing about DDoS attacks is that it is now a big business for the perpetrators.
What We’ll Cover:
– How does a DDoS attack work?
– Why are DDoS attacks increasing?
– How to identify DDoS attacks
– Why small businesses are at greater risk
– Ways that cyberattacks hurt small businesses
– How to mitigate and prevent cyberattacks
What Is a DDoS Attack?
DDoS means Distributed Denial of Service, a subclass of Denial of Service (DoS). A distributed denial of service attack is a malicious campaign to disrupt the normal network of a targeted resource by flooding the resource or its surrounding infrastructure with fake internet traffic.
DDoS attacks are also known as Distributed Network Attacks. This attack mainly focuses on taking advantage of the specific capacity limits attached to every network resource. A DDoS attacker will send a wave of multiple requests to the targeted web resources – such as the underlying infrastructure running a business website – aiming to exceed the request capacity the resource can handle, thus preventing authentic users from accessing the website.
How a DDoS Attack Works
Every network resource, such as a server, service, or website, has a specific limit to the number of requests it can handle simultaneously. Also, the channel that connects the network resources to the internet will have a finite bandwidth of network requests it can handle simultaneously. So, whenever the number of requests exceeds the finite capacity limits of any components of the infrastructure, the level of overall service delivered by the network will suffer in one of the following areas:
– Time taken to respond to requests will be much longer than usual.
– Some or all user requests will be completely ignored.
Unlike most cyberattacks, DDoS attacks don’t attempt to breach your security perimeter. Instead, a DDoS attack aims to make your website and servers inaccessible to legitimate users.
DDoS Attacks Are on the Increase
Over the last few years, we have all witnessed a series of DDoS attacks that have grounded businesses for a significant time. Most worrying is that these attacks are becoming frequent at an astonishingly fast rate.
Almost 3 million DDoS attacks happened in the first quarter of 2021 alone, a 31% increase over the same period in 2020.
And remember: for every reported attack, several more thousands are unnamed and undocumented that happen daily. In other words, these are mostly the successful ones to which many small to medium-scale enterprises fall victim.
Large-Scale DDoS Attacks Using a “Botnet”
A botnet is a collection of hijacked connected devices used for cyberattacks. These devices typically include mobile phones, IoT devices, and even unsecured cloud services. DDoS attackers use malware and other compromised techniques to turn a device into a zombie in the botnet.
To send an extremely large number of requests to a network resource, the cyber attacker will typically establish a “zombie network” of compromised devices. By harnessing the power of many machines in a botnet, the attacker can wage large-scale attacks on their targets. Using a botnet creates an overwhelming number of obscure requests, making it very difficult for business computer support teams to detect that a DDoS is ongoing before it is too late.
How to Identify DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks typically cause availability and service issues. But availability and service issues – such as slow webpages – are normal occurrences on a network. This setback makes detecting DDoS attacks challenging, especially when you do not suspect foul play.
DDoS attacks often look mundane, so it’s difficult to know what to expect. Furthermore, a cybersecurity audit should unravel any trace of a DDoS attack. However, a detailed network analysis is necessary to determine an ongoing attack.
Below are network and service behaviors that may suggest a DDoS attack. The occurrence of any of them should worry you:
1) A particular or several IP addresses make consecutive and often similar requests over a short period.
2) A surge of traffic appears to come from users with similar characteristics, behaviors, devices, geographical locations, or browsers.
3) You receive a server time-out when attempting to test it with a pinging service.
4) A server responds with a 503 HTTP error code. Meaning it is either offline for maintenance or overloaded.
5) Network logs show an unusual and frequent spike in bandwidth. Bandwidth normally balances for a functioning server.
6) Network logs indicate an unusually and unexpectedly large spike in traffic to a particular endpoint or browser.
This behavior can also help IT support teams identify the type of DDoS attack. For instance, a 503 error likely indicates a protocol-based or network-centric DDoS attack.
Why Small Businesses Are At the Greatest Risk of Cyberattacks
Generally speaking, small businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than large corporations because they lack the resources to protect themselves and the latter. The business world is relatively hostile. As a result, small business enterprises (SBEs) focus their resources on survival while neglecting cybersecurity. This leaves their business IT systems susceptible to cyberattacks.
Most SBEs typically lack a dedicated budget for cyber security. Studies show that 47% of small businesses (<50 employees) don’t have a budget for cyber security. Those prefer to handle their IT services internally instead of managed IT services. Cybercriminals understand this, and they take advantage of the fact that most small businesses feel too small to warrant a cyberattack.
However, this is not the case, as IBM reported that 52% of small businesses experienced a cyberattack in 2020. This number keeps rising yearly since cybercriminals find it easier to attack small businesses that can’t efficiently protect their IT infrastructure and network.
How Cyberattacks Hurt Small Businesses
DDoS attacks that have disrupted the activities of big businesses are well-documented. For example, the Mirai botnet affected IT services for tech giants like Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Spotify, and Twitter.
Today, businesses of different scales are more willing to adopt technologies into their operations to accelerate their digital transformation. Unfortunately, this increase in digital transformation also comes with a considerable increase in cyberattacks. Any business can be a victim of cyberattacks, but small business enterprises are at the greatest risk, and here is why.
These cyberattacks can severely damage a small business’s operations. It is important for business owners and their employees to understand the impact a cyberattack can have on their business so that they can take strict precautions around their managed IT services.
Cyberattacks cost money and resources.
Small businesses will have to incur the costs created by a successful cyberattack hit which can cause a business’ value to plummet significantly. These direct costs include paying ransomware, fines, incident responses, post-attack analysis, etc.
Alternatively, your business might also need to provide some incentives to retain its customers, like discounting products or free credit monitoring.
The business might incur legal charges if sensitive consumer data is breached since customer data is legally protected. You might also need to bring in additional personnel to help to manage the breach. This can include technical IT support, lawyers, and auditors.
The costs incurred here can vary from mild to severe, but IBM reports that the average cost per data breach in 2022 is about $164. One thing is for sure, the chances that a small business will get through a cyberattack without any financial implications are minimal.
Cyberattacks harm your credibility.
A cyberattack can damage a business’ credibility depending on how stakeholders perceive it. A successful hit can cause customers to lose trust in a business – especially with their personal information (addresses, contact information, etc.). As a result, the business will find it hard to retain current customers or acquire new ones.
Similarly, other stakeholders, such as investors or contributors, will be wary of associating themselves with your business. They can perceive a successful hit as a form of negligence or carelessness. The bottom line is that a cyberattack damages a business’s reputation, which can scare away customers and employees.
Cyberattacks make your future uncertain.
Large corporations are more likely to have the capacity to recover from cyberattacks, but the same can’t be said for small businesses. Studies show that 60% of small businesses file for bankruptcy within 6 months after a cyberattack. A cyberattack’s costs to small businesses will leave them with very little capital.
In addition, they will not have sufficient resources to bring business IT support services to ensure their continuity in the digital workspace. Since customers and other stakeholders tend to dissociate from the business, it won’t be able to bring in enough money to survive.
Cyberattacks hurt productivity.
A cyberattack disrupts the normal business operations of production or service provision. A successful hit causes unexpected downtime as the IT services team struggles to control the situation. During this period, productivity will plummet because all the resources are focused on managing the hit.
Cyberattacks may lead to increased prices.
Most businesses pass the costs incurred following a cyberattack to their customers. To do this, they increase the prices of their products or services. This is not advisable, and the business will often get pushback from customers who abandon them for cheaper alternatives.
How to Mitigate Cyberattacks as a Small Business
The only way to deal with cyberattacks as a small business is to channel more resources into it. You can accomplish a business continuity plan in two important steps:
1) Incorporate cybersecurity into your company culture
Cybersecurity training should be an ongoing process rather than an occasional practice. All business IT software should be updated, and security health checks must be done regularly. This way, the business will be well-prepared for attacks before they happen. You can hire external IT support if your business cannot do this internally.
2) Continuously educate all employees
Regarding cyber security, employees are the easiest targets for cybercriminals. According to IBM reports, employee errors are the leading cause of successful hits. Cybercriminals use various tactics to get employees to give up their login credentials. Educating them regularly on technical IT support helps to reduce the chances that cybercriminals’ attempts will be successful.
When it comes to cyberattacks, prevention is better than cure, and thwarting these attacks before they happen is better than dealing with the aftereffects.
Preventing DDoS Attacks and Other Cyberattacks
Above all, the potency of cyberattacks is the result of poor preparation.
Business owners should start seeing cybersecurity as a big part of the business and preventing them as a centerpiece to any disaster recovery and a business continuity plan in place.
Cybersecurity is not a thing the regular owner can handle. A watertight cybersecurity layer needs expertise and knowledge to set up and configure. Whether that means inviting the services of third-party cybersecurity experts or building a full, in-house business IT support team is left for the business owner to decide.
In conclusion, investing in robust cybersecurity gives businesses a better chance at survival.
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About Cinch IT.
Since 2004, Cinch IT has provided customer-focused IT services for businesses of all sizes. Whether you need a business continuity plan or a reliable cloud computing office, our computer support offers the fastest and friendliest service in the industry. Cinch is one of the nation’s fastest-growing IT support franchises, with 12 locations and counting. To learn more about our computer support service, visit cinchit.com. For more information about IT franchise opportunities, visit cinchfranchise.com.
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