What is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack?

If you have seen the news lately then it’s likely that you have heard the term Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS being used in relation to some pretty high profile and well-known celebrities, politicians, and even companies.

However, unless you keep up to date with tech jargon, you may not have any idea what a DDoS is, or how you can prevent them.

How Does It All Start?

Can you remember receiving an email from an unknown sender who asked you to install a file to boost the performance of your computer? How about clicking a link in an email that sent you to a website which looked like a familiar search engine, but something just didn’t seem right? If you can answer yes to either of these then it is likely that your computer has been used for a DDoS attack.

The purpose of these emails and request to install files isn’t to help your computer performance but to install malicious software which gives a hacker complete access to your computer system. This all happens without you being any the wiser.

How Do Websites Work?

A company does not host its own website. For example, sites like the popular Groupon Coupons page for Newegg are hosted by professional third party hosting service to do the job. This hosting service apportions a set amount of traffic which the client predicts they will receive.

This all goes well until more people than were accounted for being to visit the site, leaving the site to become slower and slower until it is eventually unresponsive. Once people stop visiting the page, the hosting company is able to get the site back up and running with minimal disruption.

What Happens During a DDoS Attack

The name gives you an idea as to how it works, but let’s go into some detail first.

When a hacker decided to attack a website, they call into their command the millions of computers they have managed to infect, all around the world. Computers just like yours as a result of similar actions installing files or clicking links from emails.

With this control, the hackers command each of these machines to visit the same website repeatedly and without delay. For example, one computer could be set to request a website every second. Once you consider this they have a million or more machines under their control, you can see how they can bring a website to a grinding halt until it eventually is inaccessible, disrupting the business in the process.

How Can You Prevent It?

The best line of defense is your common sense. If you receive an email from somebody trying to upgrade your computer for free, be skeptical about why they would do it. Similarly, if a suspicious looking email claims to be from your bank and asks you to verify your information, delete the email and speak with your bank instead.

In addition to this, be sure to educate your friends and family about the information in this article to better help them protect their electronic devices and reduce the availability of vulnerable machines.

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