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Security Terms Explained: DDoS (Distributed Denials of Service)

malwareThe internet is a confusing place, filled with unknown dangers in unexpected places. And because the risks are so new, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the emerging threats. This article discusses the online threat of DDoS, “distributed denials of service”, and how they affect us ordinary computer users.

What is a DDoS?

A distributed denial of service – or DDoS for short – is an attack used against websites, rather than individual computer users. Its purpose is to temporarily disable websites by overwhelming them with too many page requests.

This prevents anybody from being able to access the website, and therefore can stop online businesses from making any money or people from accessing useful information.

So how does it work?

In its simplest form, a DDoS starts when an attacker instructs many computers to try to load a target website as many times as possible. The idea is to request the website so many times that the computers running the website get overloaded and crash.

And because individual computers can request to load websites hundreds – if not thousands – of times a second, a criminal doesn’t need that many computers to cause a lot of damage.

When just one person’s computers are attacking a website, the attack is called a “Denial of Service”. For a “Distributed Denial of Service”, the attacker needs to use many computers.

Why should I worry?

A DDoS requires many computers to work. Most criminals don’t have the funds to maintain thousands of computers, so instead the attacker will try to use your computer to take part in the attack, making it possible for your computer to become part of a crime.

An attacker does this by infecting your computer with a certain type of malware. Once your system is infected, the attacker can then remotely send instructs to your computer, asking it to try and load the targeted website as many times as possible.

This way, the attacker doesn’t actually need many computers himself. He can simply infect other people’s PCs and use them as a zombie army, which he can control remotely. This type of grouping is known as a “botnet”, short for robot-network.

How can I tell I’m infected?

Unfortunately, without an anti-virus product like Norman, it’s very difficult to know if you’ve been infected with botnet malware.

If you are infected, you might notice a slowdown in your internet connection, as the attacker is using the whole of your internet connection in his attempt to crash a website.

Most criminals will only use their botnets irregularly, however, so there’s no easy way for you to notice if your internet is running slowly because you’re infected, or because your internet connection is simply having a bad day.

Of course, that’s not to say it’s safe to have botnet malware running on your computer. Malware that exploits your computer in any way can have seriously side effects, from crashing your PC to letting criminals steal your banking details.

A far better method to stay clear of botnets, DDoS’s and all malware is to run some kind of computer security software, like Norman Security Suite.

Read more about our Antivirus products here

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