How to Detect a DDoS Attack?

The first quarter of 2022 saw an unprecedented spike in the number and duration of DDoS attacks related to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. When used by hacktivists, they can be viewed as a powerful weapon in cyber warfare. Still, not all DDoS attacks have political overtones. This type of cybercrime has become common in various industries and is widely offered as a service to attain different nefarious goals.

It is essential to detect a DDoS attack as soon as it gets launched to ensure a prompt response and lessen the severity of its effects. But how can you tell that your website, app, network, or server is getting DDoSed right now?

5 Red Flags when Detecting DDoS Attacks

Make sure you are aware of the following red flags to be able to detect a DDoS attack before it takes a full swing:

  1. 1. Certain IP addresses send too many connection requests over a short time. Typically, these connections don’t get completed since the true sources of IP packets remain hidden.
  2. 2. Your server responds with a 503 unavailable error due to service outages. This error is usually gone when the traffic volume decreases. If it doesn’t disappear after a while, something is wrong.
  3. 3. Certain traffic source addresses keep querying for the same set of data long after the TTL for the site has passed. Authentic traffic isn’t supposed to behave so. 
  4. 4. When your employees start reporting slow site performance due to using the same connection for internal software.
  5. 5. You can see unusual spikes in traffic in your GA reports and can’t come up with any viable reasons to explain them.

The Major Detection Problem: What if this is Genuine Traffic?

Often, a typical DDoS attack is launched with no warnings so that site owners realize they might be the target of DDoSers a few hours later, only when users start to complain. As these threats grow in sophistication, they can often elude standard detection mechanisms, making inauthentic traffic look legitimate. 

If a site is overwhelmed with genuine traffic, it will likely be back up and running pretty soon. As a rule, the reasons for such spikes can be identified without difficulty. A successful ad campaign, the launch of a viral video, or the mentions of your brand by top influencers. 

But it’s tough to detect DDoS attacks that are more subtle. Say your competitor wants to make your website slow a few times a day so that your visitors get frustrated and decide to go elsewhere. It can be easily accomplished with a series of tiny DDoS attacks or even DoS attacks. Less than a thousand hits per day will be enough if your server can’t handle that amount. And you might have no clue about what’s happening. 

Does Continuous Monitoring Work?

Continuous monitoring of traffic can be implemented by webmasters to speed up the detection of DDoS attacks. However, if too many alert notifications on traffic anomalies are set up, IT teams ignore them as most alerts inform about harmless events. Unable to process many of these alerts, they don’t bother analyzing each tiny incident, with the risk of overlooking a signal about a real DDoS attack.

The 4 DDoS Attack Vectors 

Threat actors continuously develop new DDoS attack vectors, meaning that no existing detection methods can guarantee satisfactory detection accuracy. However, you can monitor attack vectors currently more popular than others and build your defensive strategy around them.

The most common DDoS attack vectors for 2022 Q2

  • Large SYN flood
  • DNS flood
  • RST flood
  • Attacks over UPD

Conclusion

Even though these attacks aren’t actual security breaches, they can often be used to cripple the company’s network security. No matter how hard it might be to detect a DDoS attack, you should always be on your guard, ready to mitigate the risks of a large-scale DDoS attack on time.

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