It seems like more and more prominent web servers are getting hacked and attacked these days. If even the giants of online industry are susceptible to hacks and attacks, what are humble web hosts supposed to do? Cyber attacks can be devastating to a server, and even more devastating when they reach other servers from that original hosting server. What can you do? Understanding the threat of DDoS attacks and how you can avoid them should help you as a web host better protect your clients, who can in turn better protect their clients from the results of such an attack.
What Are DDoS Attacks?
DDoS stands for Distributed Denial-of-Service. Have you ever tried to visit a web page only to have it error out or show up as unavailable? Most servers have a maximum capacity or bandwidth. DDoS attackers flood a server to try to reach that capacity. Once the server is full, it cannot accept any more visitors. Since the DDoS attack is flooding the server with fake visitors, this prevents real visitors from reaching and using the web pages on that server.
One of the biggest problems with DDoS attacks is that the server cannot tell the difference between fake traffic and real traffic. Hackers are getting more creative and creating layered attacks that more closely resemble real traffic. Since these types of attacks can essentially cut off your server from everyone else, it is important to take them seriously.
The Ripple Effect
If the attack is only focused on your server, it’s not harming your customers, right? Wrong. If you are a web host and your server is getting flooded with fake requests, it also affects the web pages of the clients you are hosting. If those clients happen to also be hosting clients of their own, those pages can go down, too. This is known as a ripple effect. The attack happens at a central location, and the results spread out in all directions from there. In this case, when the server hosting the web pages goes down, all the web pages tied to that server also go down.
The Real Damages
At first glance, it might seem harmless to have a web page go down. If the page is strictly for informational purposes, there is likely to be minimal financial repercussions. Some web pages are much more than informational, however. What about your clients who have their businesses set up through your hosting service? When their pages go down, their customers are not able to look at their inventory or make purchases. In these cases, the financial repercussions can be disastrous—even if the page is only down for a few hours. If your customers cannot keep their business pages open on your server, they are likely to go somewhere else. Essentially, if a DDoS attack manages to bring down your server, it has the potential to completely destroy your web hosting business.
Your Role as Web Host
As the provider of hosting services to your clients, it is your responsibility to do everything within your power to protect the web pages linked to your server. Part of this is providing the proper bandwidth. You might need multiple servers to adequately keep your clients’ pages up and running. You should also take it upon yourself to investigate security services and software that may be better able to identify complex DDoS attacks.
Use Multiple Methods of Protection
To better protect your clients, consider using multiple methods of protection. You will want to be able to recognize a DDoS attack as early as possible. Having more bandwidth than you need can help with such attacks. Although the attacker might try to flood your server, if you have plenty of bandwidth, legitimate visitors might be able to get through for a little while. However, even if you have an extra 500% of bandwidth available, a DDoS attack will eventually flood it all. At the very least, the extra bandwidth can provide you with more time to identify and take care of the attack.
Running Your Own Server
There are things you can do when running your own server to also buy you more time. You can rate limit your router, cause half-open connections to time out, or even set lower thresholds for ICMP, SYN, and UDP flood drops. If you are able to identify a DDoS attack and have the means, you can also divert traffic to scrubbing software designed to remove malicious packets. These scrubbers are often used by large hosting providers. If you are a small web host, you will want to contact your ISP as soon as possible to help cut off the attack.
Consider Using Mitigation Services
Mitigation services can assist in monitoring the traffic on your web server to identify and fend off DDoS attacks. There are several different types of providers of mitigation services. If you have many clients that depend on your hosting services, then investing in such security is probably wise. These services assist in identifying malicious packages, rerouting them, and deleting them before they can flood your server and spread to your clients. DDoS attacks are constantly changing, and mitigation services are usually on top of the latest defense methods against the evolving attacks.
Protect Yourself to Protect Your Customers
DDoS attacks are very serious. Although they might seem harmless at first glance, these types of attacks basically strangle your hosting business. By flooding your server, they can potentially flood the pages and servers of clients tied to your service. When this happens, web pages are cut off from potential customers and visitors. In order to protect your customers from the devastating effects of such an attack, you need to protect yourself. You can take pre-emptive action with larger bandwidth and software to help you identify malicious and fake packages. Even with these actions, however, you need the means to scrub those fake packages off of your server. Contacting your ISP is a good idea for smaller web hosts. You might also want to look into mitigation services that can monitor and protect you from potential attacks on a regular basis. If you are unfamiliar with DDoS attacks or your protection methods need updating, start researching such services right away.
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