It's no secret that distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can be devastating to enterprises, taking websites offline and costing companies money and data. But did you know that many hackers actually target small businesses?
That's right -- small businesses aren't in the clear just because of their size, and small-business owners need a game plan for preventing DDoS attacks. This type of attack can have a big impact because its symptoms are often mistaken for ordinary usability issues, such as your site loading slower than usual.
Here's everything you need to know about DDoS attacks and key security measures small businesses can use to protect themselves from them.
What is a DDoS attack?
DDoS is a common type of cyberattack that attempts to crash a website by overwhelming it with fake requests and traffic from hundreds, or even thousands, of sources. In a DDoS attack, multiple infected computers on different networks, known as a botnet, flood your website with requests all at once.
These requests take a huge toll on websites' resources, causing them to slow down or crash. If a DDoS attack successfully takes a website offline, the potential consequences include loss of revenue, data, or reputation damage.
Why are small businesses targets of DDoS attacks?
There are several reasons why small businesses are common targets of DDoS attacks. One reason is they have smaller budgets than enterprises do and often can't afford to invest in advanced cybersecurity measures. In addition, many small businesses lack an IT department to help them secure their websites and systems.
Another reason is a general lack of awareness of DDoS attacks. Many small businesses have never heard of a DDoS attack and don't know that a web application firewall (WAF) can help prevent them.
Most important, small businesses have significantly fewer server resources. Most small businesses host their company websites on a shared network or a virtual private server (VPS) and typically don't have a large amount of dedicated resources on those shared servers. This means that small-business websites can be taken down more easily by a DDoS attack than large-business websites with more server resources.
What are the consequences of a DDoS attack?
DDoS attacks can have serious consequences for companies. They can disrupt the company's daily operational activities, resulting in lost data, work hours, and productivity. Another major consequence of a DDoS attack is a loss of revenue.
A slow or crashed website can result in a loss of sales, and the costs of recovering from such an attack can be high. In the case of small businesses, 54 percent report that a single cyberattack costs them $500,000 or more, and 40 percent experience downtimes of eight hours or more after an attack.
Additionally, if a company's website is down, users can lose trust in the company and might never return. This damage to a company's reputation can be permanent, especially for newer businesses without a large customer base.
How to protect your business from a DDoS attack
There are three essential security measures that all small businesses should take to protect themselves from DDoS attacks:
Use a web application firewall (WAF): The absolute best way to prevent a DDoS attack is through the use of a WAF that blocks bad traffic and prevents DDoS attacks from accessing your web server. Additionally, there are many WAF solutions on the market today tailored to the needs and budget of any small business.
- Customize your WAF configurations: Small businesses should customize their WAF configurations and rules to help protect their websites against DDoS attacks. For example, if you only do business in the U.S., try blocking all non-U.S. traffic for more protection. You can also blacklist traffic from countries that are known for large-scale attacks, such as Russia or China.
- Understand your website traffic patterns: Be sure to regularly monitor your website's traffic and be aware of your typical traffic patterns. A random spike in traffic could be a sign of a large-scale DDoS attack. At the same time, remember to look out for low-volume attacks as well. These are typically less than five minutes and can be harder to detect.
Despite their smaller size, small businesses are frequent targets of DDoS attacks and typically have a harder time recovering from them than large enterprises do. For this reason, it's essential that small businesses invest in proactive cybersecurity measures such as website scanners that identify and patch vulnerabilities. In addition, it's necessary for small businesses to implement key security solutions to help protect themselves from DDoS attacks.