Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are on the rise. These complex and devastating problems are a result of multiple systems (botnets) target a single resource. This incoming traffic overwhelms that target, essentially shutting it down and preventing legitimate traffic from getting through.
These malicious botnets start with one vulnerability, which then spreads via a trojan malware until enough systems have been infected as to be effective in the take-down. The hacker collective, Anonymous, has been known to wage a series of DDoS attacks against some major websites, resulting in expenses in the thousands per hour. Xbox Live and the Playstation Network have both been infected in the past. In some cases, the criminal masterminds behind these hacks, then extort money from companies to make their own networks accessible again.
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It can be extremely difficult to combat a DDoS attack, due to the distributed nature of these attacks. But there are some countermeasures companies can take. First off, keep all your hardware and software up to date, including routers and switches, where current security practices may have become lax.
There are Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPSes) that come with DDoS detection abilities, but these are not fool-proof. You can also work with your ISP to protect your bandwidth against these attacks; after all, it's in their best interest to filter out potential DDoS packets before they reach your network.
Perhaps your best protection is to over invest in bandwidth and infrastructure, on the possibility that an attack may happen in the future. But that's not a realistic option for many smaller companies.