Guest Blog: Fighting a ghost

Tim

The threat of ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ (DDoS) has reached a critical level.

The cost to businesses that a cyber-attack of this kind can have could plunge them into free-fall. Many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) simply do not have the budget to protect themselves against these attacks, which leaves them vulnerable to opportunistic ‘hacktivists’.

Business owners need to be aware of the risks and the potential monetary loss they could incur if they do not have the correct security measures in place.

The first DDoS attacks occurred during the late 1990s and by the year 2000 retail sites were being targeted. Now, attacks of this nature occur thousands of times a day and this figure is growing steeply.

DDoS is a cyber-attack specifically designed to target websites by bombarding them with visits.

The average duration of a DDoS attack is between nine and ten hours, which is enough time for hackers to completely dismantle a business. The other way in which cyber-criminals target businesses is through sending hundreds of thousands of requests a second. When the destination server tries to process the requests, it shuts down and when future requests go through the server does not respond.

At the start of the year, student Christopher Weatherhead was jailed for his role in hacking group Anonymous’ DDoS attacks on PayPal, which reportedly cost the e-commerce business £3.5 million. This highlights the ease with which hackers can target businesses who think they have secure firewalls and IP security measures in place. Students, such as Weatherhead, can bring a website to its knees.

The impact to a business is not just a straight-forward monetary one. The reputational damage that any sort of downtime can have may prove detrimental to the business’s short-term and long-term performance. This damage can be irreversible and in a competitive business environment, every minute the site is down could result in the exodus of customers to welcoming competitors.

Dedicated DDoS protection was once only available to large companies, but now there are more affordable solutions for SMBs who do not have the multi-million pound budgets, from companies such as ServerSpace. DDoS protection should be a key component of any business’ structure because without it, a business is left vulnerable to some of the most destructive cyber-attacks that hackers can orchestrate.

SMBs must acknowledge that they will not be able to combat DDoS by themselves. So long as they have a supported web security procedure in place and are aware of the risks and potential destruction that attacks of this nature can have, then the threat level to the business will be reduced significantly. The biggest mistake a business can make going forward will be the failure to recognise the severity of DDoS attacks.

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