Understanding Denial of Service Attacks

ByDaniel Gottilla

Understanding Denial of Service Attacks

While there are many security issues that could lead to a network crash, understanding denial of service attacks is critical in order to implement procedures and security to keep them from happening. Having your system fail due to an accident or disaster is bad enough, but what about when it’s an actual attack causing the damage? A denial of service attack is when a system is deliberately attacked with the intent to disrupt or end service to it. Usually the system attacked is an Internet site or web page. If a business site goes down, they lose both potential customers as well as their reputation for reliability. Preventing both losses is important to running a successful business.

What Denial of Service Looks Like

Denial of service attacks can come in many forms. One common method is to make so many demands on the site that it either slows to a crawl or is entirely stopped. Using up your bandwidth or disk space will make it so that legitimate users cannot access your system, effectively shutting down your site. If your processor can’t handle the demands, your system crashes. Another method is to flood your email with spam messages, filling it up and overwhelming your email account. If you receive enough messages to fill the quota you are allowed to have, you cannot receive any other emails and legitimate messages will be unable to reach you.

In order to understand denial of service attacks, you should also understand distributed denial of service attacks. In a distributed attack, your computer is attacked and is used as the weapon to flood a third party’s email account or site with information requests, thereby shutting them down. Your system is being used to attack the third party, which extends the problem past your company and hurts another business as well.

How can you know if a denial of service attack is happening to your company?

– Is your network unusually slow, increasing the time it takes to open files or websites?
– Are you receiving a dramatic increase in spam emails?
– Are you unable to access any other websites?

While these symptoms don’t mean that you are definitely under attack, they should be immediately reported to your system administrator or security provider. The administrator can investigate what is causing the issue and to help minimize the damage if there is indeed a denial of service attack underway.

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