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What is a Denial of Service attack?

If you run a business, it’s worth knowing about a Denial of Service, or a DoS attack. These are cyber attacks which aim to affect the connectivity of a network, or computer, so that the people that need to use the machine or network can’t access it. These can be devastating for SMEs, both operationally and financially.

How does a Denial of Service attack work?

There are a couple of ways that a Denial of Service attack can be executed; a flood attack, where a targeted computer, device or network is overloaded with traffic, and a crash attack, where the perpetrator sends the targeted computer, device or network information that causes it to crash. 

Websites, services, machines and networks have a limited capacity, depending on the amount of internet traffic or clicks that they usually receive. A flood attack exploits this vulnerability by sending a huge amount of traffic to its target, far more than the target could handle. The result is that the machine or network is completely inaccessible, because it cannot handle the amount of traffic it has received.

A flood attack can also be a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS). From the victim’s standpoint this is the same as the Denial of Service attack, but it means that the perpetrator uses multiple devices to flood the target. This is more difficult to rectify because it involves shutting down multiple machines, as opposed to a single perpetrator.

In the second example, a crash attack, a scammer sends some code or a link to a targeted computer. In some instances this will need to be clicked by a victim; however, in some instances just sending the code to the target will crash the machine or network. Just like in the flood attack, this makes the machine or target inaccessible.

Why do scammers use Denial of Service attacks?

There are a number of reasons why a Denial of Service attack might be used.. 

  • Financial reasons: Scammers might either execute a Denial of Service attack, or threaten a Denial of Service attack to extort money from a business. Businesses often pay to avoid the attack.

  • Social or political reasons: Scammers could execute a Denial of Service attack against a political group or social cause that they disagree with.

  • Distraction: Scammers could even use a Denial of Service attack to keep victims occupied, whilst also executing a different scam.

What do Denial of Service attacks mean for businesses?

For businesses, Denial of Service attacks often result in financial losses, because the front-facing service that the business provides is made inaccessible whilst the attack is going on. This means that customers and clients can’t access the goods and services that the business is offering, and as a result the business may lose revenue. 

A Denial of Service attack can also damage a business’ brand. Customers take security very seriously, and a Denial of Service attack can give the impression that your business is not secure.

What can businesses do?

Denial of Service attacks are targeted, so there is a limit to the amount of precautions you can take. However, you can keep your business secure by regularly running your anti-virus software to scan for malware, and updating your operating system so any known security vulnerabilities will be patched. You can also be aware of phishing emails, and avoid illegitimate websites, so there is less chance for malicious code to be installed onto your machine or network.

If you’re worried about targeted attacks that could harm your business, you should think about IT support. We can help stay on top of your security, keep your systems running as they should and establish back ups, just in case the worst happens. If you’d like to talk about our IT support services, give us a call on 0191 482 0444.

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