Everyone has heard about DDoS attacks at least once. Maybe you’re a CSI episode where the whole crew is tripping over a magical, evil, DDoS attack.
But there really isn't anything magical about DDoS attacks, or even anything particularly sophisticated about them.
When regular users go to your website, they’re using your server resources to produce webpage for them, process their data requests, and so on. The more users you have using your server, the more data your server has to process. Given enough users, eventually some will have to wait for your server to process previous requests. If that happens they're recieve a timeout message basically saying the server is unreachable at the moment.
DDoS- distributed denial of service- is a way to abuse this basic server-user infrastructure, by someone making more requests on your server than your server can handle, usually with the help of a botnet ("a network of computers usually highjacked without their users' awareness) or a script written for that specific purpose. When your server is overburdened by these requests, legitimate users won't be able to access your server and, in turn, your sites or databases.
So what can you do to protect yourself from a DDoS attack?
My honest suggestion is not to worry about it too much. I know that it might seem like strange advice, but the fact is that defending against a DDoS attack generally requires dedicated technology that often carries a steep cost. Because of the way DDoS attacks function, you wouldn't be able to defend your server by just configuring your firewall. Although, if your attackers are coming from the same network segment, you might be able to block them for a bit as we described in our article about iptables. Unless you have a specific reason to suspect you'll be the target of an attack, it's usually not cost-efficient to worry about it.
Bottom line is, it's always important to know what's out there. If you suddenly see a large traffic spike on your server that's slowing it down seemsingly for no reason, it might be a DDoS attack, and you can respond accordingly.
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Till next time!