DDoS attacks have been in the news quite a bit recently, with the Christmas-day denial of service attacks levied against both Sony and Microsoft, no doubt making millions of children unhappy with the quality of their services.
Microsoft and Sony aren’t the only targets of a DDoS attack. In fact, anyone can be the target, up to and including your business website. For that matter, smaller websites with weaker infrastructures are more vulnerable to attack than larger counterparts. Where Playstation Network is taken down and Steam is slightly inconvenienced, a small business side may be rendered completely inoperable for days.
There are actually several different kinds of DDoS attack. They each work in different ways, and require different solutions to mitigate. Before we continue, though, make one thing clear; it’s impossible to be completely protected against every possible DDoS attack. The best you can do is just make it more trouble than it’s worth to take down your site.
So, one thing is certain; no single server architecture can withstand a dedicated denial of service attack. There are a few things you can do to make your site more resistant to DDoS attacks, but nothing can make you completely impervious short of running on a supercomputer with one of the Internet backbones as your connection.
The first option is to streamline your site and its code. Most types of DDoS attack don’t actually load much if anything on your site, so this will only help legitimate users load under times of high stress. However, it can still be effective and lessening the impact a minor DDoS has on your server.
At this time, you can also implement some basic anti-DDoS scripting. These scripts filter out the most common types of bad traffic to prevent them from using up your server resources. It won’t get everything, but if you can block 90% of what the DDoS hacker is sending your way, you can be much more resilient against attacks.
The second option is to boost the hosting you use. Stronger servers running on better architecture with stronger connections can give you more resilience to DDoS attacks as well. Essentially, if you think of traffic like water in a river, and a DDoS like a flood, this option is digging a bigger trench for the water.
Another option in this category is to invest in specialized equipment to protect your site. This equipment can be expensive, but is designed specifically to filter incoming traffic before it reaches your servers. This is only really effective if you’re the only one on the server and you’re hosting everything in your own data centers. It’s typically not a valid option for small businesses.
The third option is to use a third party service to serve the most taxing content on your site. Services such as Akamai will host your scripts, images, videos and other content, leaving your servers to serve just the barebones code to users.
Again, this comes down to distributing the load on your content. If a user is trying to DDoS you by loading one particular script or application, and that script is hosted on a third party CDN dedicated to hosting that kind of content, it will be incredibly hard to take down.
The fourth and most effective option is to use a third party service to block unwanted traffic. Services like CloudFlare or Google Shield act as bouncers or gatekeepers for your traffic. All traffic coming to your site routes through them, and they determine if the traffic is legitimate. If it bears the characteristics of a DDoS attack, it is filtered, and your site never knows.
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