A DDoS attack is surprisingly easy to carry out and affects millions of websites worldwide each year, with the number of attacks constantly increasing.
Experiencing DDoS attacks may seem like an inevitable side effect of being online. The more successful your site is, the more likely it is to be the target of an attack at some point. However, you can reduce the likelihood of a DDoS attack affecting your site.
In this post, we’ll explain what DDoS attacks are, explore what can make your site vulnerable, and outline their possibilities and ways to reduce their impact.
What is DDoS Attack?
Let’s start by examining what exactly a DDoS attack is, and more importantly, what it is not.
DDoS stands for “distributed denial of service,” but usually simply means a denial of service. A DDoS attack is when a website is briefly flooded with requests, overwhelming the site and causing it to crash. The “distributed” element means that these attacks come from multiple places at once, as opposed to a DoS that comes from a single place.
If your site is subject to a DDoS attack, you will receive thousands of requests from multiple sources within minutes or sometimes hours. These requests are not the result of a website suddenly getting a spike in traffic: they are automatic and come from a limited number of sources, depending on the scale of the attack.
Although the two can be linked, DDoS attack is not the same as hacking. Initiators of a DDoS attack do not try to access your website’s files or administration panel, but instead cause your website to crash or become vulnerable due to the volume of requests. In some cases, this is followed by attempts to hack the site when it is vulnerable, but in most cases the goal is to stop the site from working.
It may seem like there is no way to prevent a DDoS attack; After all, if someone decides to flood your site with requests, there’s not much you can do to stop them.
However, you can’t do much to prevent someone from trying to damage your site with a DDoS attack, but there are steps you can take to ensure that if you get hacked, your site doesn’t crash and leave it vulnerable to hacking.
We’ll cover these steps later in this post, but first, let’s examine why someone might want to do a DDoS attack on your site.
Why would someone DDoS attack your site?
So why would someone launch a DDoS attack on your WordPress site? What could they gain from this?
There are many reasons why an attacker would want to crash your site through a DDoS attack. This includes attacks from competitors and attacks from your content.
Competitors’ DDoS attacks
In an ideal world, your competitors would try to outrank you online by improving their content, SEO, and conversion rates, which are legitimate ways to use your website to gain a competitive advantage.
In some cases, however, competitors may take more extreme measures. A competitor can hire someone to launch a DDoS attack on their competitor’s sites, knowing that this will affect not only their website but also their business.
In the time it takes to get your website up and running, they will drive your business away from you, especially if they’re advertising using your business name as a keyword. If your site doesn’t restart quickly, you will lose search rankings and you may find that your competitors are now outdoing you on Google.
Of course, it is very difficult to prove who carried out any DDoS attack. The attack will not come from your opponent’s IP address! An attempt to take legal action against a dubious competitor is unlikely to be successful unless their pockets are very deep.
Much better to protect yourself from the effects of an attack in the first place. Do not attempt another DDoS attack on your opponent in return. This is illegal, and it’s far better to make sure that a competitor desperate enough to use measures like this probably won’t have the longevity or reputation your business has.
DDoS Attacks Your Content
Some sites are subject to DDoS attacks due to the nature of their content.
For example, a political news site may be the target of an attack. A site that deals with a controversial topic (like abortion access or anti-racism) may be attacked by people who disagree with its message and want to destroy it. Or your content may be commercial but still sensitive and people don’t want it to be served online.
If your site is successfully hacked, it will take your content out of circulation and potentially cause problems for your users when they need to access information or guidance. You’ll also spend time solving the problem, lose revenue from the site (sales or donations if you’re a nonprofit), and your ranking may drop if your site returns a 502 error for hours or days.
Politically motivated DDoS attacks are becoming more common as cyber threats are increasingly used to disrupt the political process. If your website is for a political party, candidate, or organization, or supports a particular political cause, it may be vulnerable to attacks by people who disagree with your politics.
This will not come unnecessarily from your political rivals. It is more likely to come from outside sources trying to disrupt political debates, block certain types of content, and use chaos to confuse and disenfranchise people. The attack could be an attempt to make it impossible for people to access your content, or it could be a more personal attack on the individual candidate or the organization behind the site.
If you are running a campaign (which could have made you more vulnerable due to additional ads), then it will be especially important to keep your site up and running and not waste time dealing with the attack while you can focus on campaign activity. That’s why it’s essential that you take the following steps to protect your site from a politically motivated DDoS attack.
What are the possible effects of DDoS attack?
A DDoS attack can have a variety of effects, depending on the nature of the attack and how prepared you are.
1. Website Downtime
The most immediate and obvious effect is that your website is congested and unusable. This means that any work you earn through your website cannot be used for you until you get the site up and running again. It also affects your reputation as a website owner. And if you don’t fix the site quickly, it can hurt your SEO because if Google crawls your site and sees it’s not working, you will lose your ranking.
If your site is unavailable because it is overloaded, it will return 502 bad gateway error; this will negatively affect your search ranking if you let it be unavailable for too long. I’ve also seen attacks where the site was down for a few days and the site came back later. As a result, all internal Google listing links for that site were lost.
2. Server and Hosting Issues
If your site is subject to regular attacks that you do not take steps to mitigate, this can lead to problems with your hosting provider.
A good hosting provider will give you the tools to secure your site against DDoS attacks, but if you don’t have it and you’re using shared hosting, the attacks can affect other sites on the same server.
3. Web Site Vulnerability
A DDoS attack can make your site more vulnerable to hacking, as all your systems are focused on getting the site back online and security systems may have been disabled by the attack.
When a DDoS attack brings your site to a standstill, hackers may find it easier to break into your site through the backdoor. Follow-up attacks like this don’t always come from the same source as the requests that make up the DDoS attack: A smart hacker knows how to hide their tracks and how to use multiple IP addresses to attack your site and hide its location.
Therefore, if you are the victim of a DDoS attack, one of your first priorities should be to make sure your WordPress site is secure. This is probably more important than making the site clickable for everyone again, because another attack will only set you back for the worse.
4. Waste of Time and Money
Fixing a website that has been subjected to a DDoS attack takes time. You can also lose money. If you don’t know what happened to your site and are not prepared for the possibility of an attack, you may have to rebuild your site from scratch (I’ve seen sites where this happens). If you haven’t backed up your site, what are you going to restore from? If you don’t fix this right away, the attack could have a long-term impact on the performance of your website and business.
With the site down, you may be losing revenue, especially if your site is an e-commerce store. If your site is generating revenue from Adsense ads, you may experience great financial loss. You may also have to pay to hire a security expert or web wrapper to rebuild your site and make sure it is safe from future attacks.
All this highlights how important it is to protect your site from DDoS attacks. I had a client who was subject to frequent hacking attempts due to the nature of his business; they never affected the site as we took security measures. If you’re ready, a DDoS attack shouldn’t affect your site either.
Is your website vulnerable to DDoS attacks?
Some sites are more vulnerable to DDoS attacks than others. This will make you more vulnerable to attack in the first place or its after effects.
Cheap server usage
As with any type of cyberattack, cheap hosting is the first culprit when it comes to vulnerability to DDoS attacks. Cheap hosting has two main drawbacks: lack of support and high customer volume.
To be able to offer hosting so cheaply, the hosting provider will have a large number of clients all using the same server, meaning that if one of the other sites on that server is attacked, it can affect you.
Cheap hosting providers do not offer security against DDoS attacks, do not warn you when an attack occurs, and do not help you fix it when your site crashes. They don’t back up your site regularly, and even if they do, they’re unlikely to help you restore your site; You have to figure out how to do this yourself.
It’s not because cheap hosting providers try to scam you or don’t offer the services they promise: it’s because they lack support to make your hosting cheap. Otherwise, they cannot make a profit.
If your website represents a business or any company where your reputation and website security are important, it’s worth investing in quality hosting. The extra cost is worth it when you avoid spending time fixing your site if it gets hacked, and it’s definitely worth it if it means your site stays online and isn’t compromised through a DDoS attack attempt.
Lack of Preparation
Taking security measures against possible attacks will increase your site’s chances of staying online despite an attack attempt. But understanding how to stop a DDoS attack will also help. If your site gets hacked and crashes, if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to get it up and running much faster than if you weren’t prepared.
Installing security software or using the security alerts provided by your hosting provider means you will be alerted if your site has been hacked and you or your hosting provider can take steps to protect your site.
Having a regular backup of your site means you can quickly restore it in case you run into problems. Keeping your site up-to-date means it’s inherently more secure and you’re less likely to run into problems if you need to rebuild the site.
Unsafe or Legacy Code
Keeping your WordPress version, theme, and plugins up-to-date will not protect you from a DDoS attack. But if you get hacked and your site’s subsequent weakness is used by hackers as an opportunity to gain unwanted access, their chances of success will be much lower if your site is well managed.
Precautions include only installing plugins and themes from trusted sources as well as keeping your site up to date. WordPress theme and plugin directories are by far the best places to find free themes and plugins, and reputable developers will make them available there. Be careful not to install code that might cause incompatibility with your hosting system, and never install deprecated themes or plugins.
How do you protect your site against DDoS attacks?
Now let’s move on to the question you want to know the answer to: How do you protect your site against DDoS attacks?
There are several measures you can take, and the measures you choose will depend on your setup, your budget, and your preferences. Let’s take a look at the options.
Protecting Your Hosting Provider
Some hosting services have a number of features that will reduce your chances of being exposed to DDoS attacks.
These include Cloudflare integration with a secure firewall with built-in DDoS protection. You can also take advantage of strict software-based restrictions to make your site even more secure. All this makes it much more difficult for a DDoS attack to get through.
Another feature that can help protect you when a DDoS attack starts is IP Geolocation blocking. This will detect any DDoS attack and warn you. Then you can use the Geo IP blocking feature to block the geographic area where the DDoS attack came from.
This means you can safely block a geographic area where an attack is coming from and IP addresses in that area can no longer send requests to your site.
Alternatively, you can block individual IPs via the IP deny page.
The truth is, no matter how good your hosting provider is, it’s impossible for them to fully protect you against DDoS attacks. What a good hosting provider will do is provide a good firewall that reduces the chances of an attack but doesn’t get rid of it completely. They will also have tools that you or they can use, such as IP blocking, to stop a DDoS attack once it has started.
Therefore, any hosting provider that claims to offer you complete protection against DDoS attacks is completely dishonest. They can reduce the probability of an attack and limit its impact, but they cannot completely stop DDoS attacks.
Instead, to further protect yourself from DDoS attacks, you need to use a large network that can use a database of attack information from elsewhere in the world to predict attacks and block any IPs they might come from. Let’s take a look at a few of these services.
Cloudflare is one of the most popular content delivery network providers on the Internet and also provides protection against attacks and hackers. Due to its large size, it can access information about where DDoS attacks are coming from and then block those IP addresses for all sites on its network.
Cloudflare’s cloud-based network is always on and always learning, which means it can identify potential attacks and block unwanted traffic from reaching your site 24/7. It also provides a dashboard that you can use to monitor and neutralize DDoS attacks so you can identify what your vulnerabilities might be.
If your site is hosted locally by a server that supports Cloudflare, you don’t need to go through the process of creating your own Cloudflare account. All sites in our infrastructure are protected with free Cloudflare integration.
Sucuri is a company known for cleaning up sites after attacks and helping prevent them from happening again. But it also offers DDoS protection.
Sucuri’s service works because it is so large with a network of over 400,000 clients; this means it can protect an attack database in the same way as Cloudflare. These IP addresses can be blocked on your site.
Sucuri’s network isn’t as extensive as Cloudflare’s, but the company is worth considering if you also want advanced security and monitoring features that are its area of expertise. Sucuri will monitor your site for downtime and hacks or hacks and will fix any hacks that occur.
So, if you suffer a DDoS attack and your WordPress site gets hacked when vulnerable, being with Sucuri means you can get it up and running again as quickly as possible.