Have you ever gone in to a web page you usually go into, but that day you simply can’t. You might be getting the (in)famous error: 404 page not found. But why?! You check your Internet connection, might even open other tabs and see it just fine. So it must only be happening to this one page. This annoys you, thinking the page was fine just a day or a few hours ago, and close the tab. Later you return and see you can access normally, and everything is fine. But what happened that time that you couldn’t get in? Well something at that moment probably was under an attack. A denial of Service Attack.
But what exactly is that? Should I start panicking over it? The word Attack sounds like something really bad… Well, as answer to the last question I can only say maybe, maybe not. As for the first, I’d like you to meet someone who will help me explain.
This is Little Packet. Little Packet normally goes to through the web delivering your request to access a web page. It would normally go as follows:
But sometimes, someone wanting to do something bad (just like in the real world imo), would send a lot of request (call them rouge packets if you want), to one server hosting a page, all at once. What this does is to prevent legitimate users, like Little Packet, from accessing information or services, like websites, emails, online accounts, etc.
Another form of DoS is one you probably already know, but hadn’t paid much attention to it, or just called it annoyed. It is called spam. When a lot of spam is sent, it fulls the inbox, not letting you receive your legitimate email.
There exists, let’s call it, an upgrade to DoS, which is the Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS). This happens when an attacker uses network of infected machines, or botnets, to attack another computer or server. The way the create this network is by spreading malicious software through emails, websites and social media. And yes, if you are not careful, your computer could belong to this network. That’s why you should protect yourself with anti virus software, firewall, and good practices like not going to web pages that seem fishy or installing software that doesn’t look good either.
But why doing a DDoS attack? Well, this can be used as a way to silence someone or to influence political events. Also, it could be used to make companies lose costumers, and thus, money, since there are some big costumers that cannot afford having their service down.
As a final example, I’m loading here an image taken from http://www.digitalattackmap.com to show just how common and in what quantity denial of service attacks occur. So you see, it’s not just a little annoyance, or something of fiction.
P.S.: Hope you liked my drawings, at least a bit.