So everyone today is talking (in the gaming world) about DDOS, but what is it?
Well the first myth to clear up that DDOS is NOT hacking.
DDOS stands for Distributed Denial Of Service. It's a way to block you from accessing something you want, or to stop a supplier giving a service to you.
It's a very very complicated subject and not really something best suited for a gaming site, but I did want to clear up some misconceptions other press outlets are publishing, by calling the purpetrators hackers.
Imagine if you will
You're outside your house, in public. Someone starts talking to you and you hold a conversation. That's normal.
You're outside your house, in public. Someone breaks into your house, steals your stuff and then trashes it. That's hacking and site defacing.
You're outside your house, in public. Someone breaks into your house, steals your stuff and sneaks out. That's hacking and doing it covertly.
You're outside your house, in public. A ton of people come running up and start shouting at you, you can't keep up with talking to everyone. That's a DDOS.
A DDOS lives up to its name, denying you service to whatever it is you're requesting by chewing up the resources on the server.
It is NOT stealing data and/or trashing the server. They don't aim to get in (in most situations).
So can we just ignore the bad guys and listen to the good guys?
In low-level attacks perhaps, there are means and ways to filter this out. But how do you discern who's good and who's bad? A firewall? a bunch of firewalls? sure. But that can become a target of DDOS in itself. Overload the check and the site doesn't load anyway.
OK so we just buy a ton of servers and bandwidth!
Well thats Cat and mouse approach and not very successful at that. DDOS attacks can get very large very quickly and can still overwhelm a large corporate network.
So how does a company defend itself?
In short, by having very skilled, very talented people in its staff that can design very redundant, reslient networks. By using pretty standard network designs you can have multiple companies feed into your network so you can level the load more effectively. This is something that Microsoft and Sony almost certainly do already. You can also get help from companies such as Akamai, Prolexic (also owned by Akamai), Black Lotus and Cloud Flare that specialize in content delivery and DDOS protection, but are very, very expensive.
So how does this happen in the first place?
In short, virus ridden computers. You know that super old Windows machine at your grandparents or parents, that probably hasn't been updated for years or is running an ancient OS for a bit of ebay or checking email here or there? Get some AntiVirus on it. Fast. These are the exact machines that attackers prey on. They get in through malware and hide themselves. Very rarely is data stolen from the machine or does it misbehave, because they don't want you poking around with it. It then sends out very low level amounts of data at their request. Too small to affect your browsing experience and normal enough for a basic firewall to ignore (if there is one there).
But imagine that millions of identical machines are doing the same thing. And that my friends is how these attacks take place.
And these machines can be all over the world - making it even more difficult for the network ops guys to try and fight or block the attack - its coming from literally everywhere.
So how can I help stop these sorts of attacks?
If you know anyone who has an old PC/Mac - ask them when they last updated it. Ask them what (if any) AntiVirus they have on it. If the response is "I don't know", "none" or there eyes glaze over, get that machine checked. You're not only helping them, you're helping the internet community.
Renember, in most countries now, its a criminal offense to allow your machine to be involved in this sort of activity - irrelevant - of if you know its doing it or not (ignorance is not a defense in a court of law). And even if now it's only being used as an attack vector, how long till data on that machine does start to float off to the hands of whoever has compromised it?
Stay safe, stay protected and keep your machines up to date.