WHAT IS A DDoS?
A simple definition for starters: The term Denial of Service indicates, as is its namesake, is an action that causes the inability to access a certain service. DoS attack usually comes from one source and is a more manageable type of attack. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) on the other hand is likely to come from a botnet and is a much more serious threat. Such an attack is initiated by intentionally generating large volumes of network traffic to satiate network resources and servers. Because of the oversized loads, the service provider is no longer able to provide the intended services and legitimate users can't access them.
Due to the widespread of fast-speed internet connection and the relative ease with which such an attack can be initiated DDoS attacks are a problem that many countries and companies deal with. Loss of customers, lawsuits, refunds and opportunity cost are some among many consequences of a non-functional service and it's no wonder that cyber-security budgets steadily increase each and every year. To better visualize the magnitude of this problem there are even dedicated sites that monitor DDoS and other cyber attacks in real time and you can check one out here.
DDOS ATTACKS IN GAMING
So what does a DDOS attack mean for you as a gamer? Most common cases of DDoS-in in gaming usually relate to one of these different categories:
– developer and publisher blackmail
– harming the goodwill and reputation of a company/service etc.
– a form of protest or revenge attacks
– gaining competitive advantage in online games
The first category is rather self-explanatory and it usually means limiting player access to massively multiplayer games until the developer agrees to the demands of the attacker. One such example is the MMO game Albion Online where attackers demanded a ransom in order to stop attacking the game's servers.
The second category usually means limiting player access to a service or game to harm the reputation of a company. These sorts of attacks can be initiated by other companies or even overly enthusiastic fans looking to boost his game by harming another. The cases where these sorts of attacks happen out of pure malicious intent or pure trolling are rare but have increased over the last few years.
The first part of the third category falls into an "internet activist" group. These can be somewhat benevolent in the sense that they can be initiated by the passionate community members looking to punish a developer or publisher for shady business practices. Other times, they can signify lashing out toward content changes of an online game or due to the fact that a player has been banned from a game for a certain reason. We even reported on one example of a revenge attack back in 2016, when Blizzard shut down multiple private servers and a hacker group Lizard Squad retaliated by causing the shutdown of their online services.
The last, but not least is something that will especially impact you as a gamer if you are into competitive gaming or even casual gaming in some of the many multiplayer games out there. Most of the time, these sorts of attacks are not aimed at the developer, publisher or the game itself but at other players. In such cases, the attacker initiates a DDoS attack toward personal IP addresses in order to slow down the internet connection which directly translates to bad response time, slowdowns or even disconnects from the game. This is done in such a way because other players are usually a much easier target and are more likely to attribute their gaming losses to other players skill or server problems.
How to protect yourself
First and perhaps the easiest way to protect yourself is to use the internet in a legal, responsible and safe way. This means not visiting suspicious sites, opening or clicking on suspicious emails, adds and other. Besides being illegal, downloading music, movies or torrents is also a perfect way to install bots that can then use your internet connection for malicious purposes.
The second way to protect yourself (which should be used in conjunction with the first one) is to have a solid anti-malware software that will also monitor your internet connection. Anti-malware software uses reports of existing malware and bot signatures to recognize and block them from infecting your computer. This means that it's only a half measure as new kinds of malware are created constantly and there can only be so many people finding and reporting their signature to the software companies.
Additionally, having a VPN is also a good idea. Contrary to the popular belief that a VPN is only a tool to protect your internet privacy, it's also, in fact, a good way to mitigate some of the effects of direct DDoS attacks. How so? Well, the way VPN's work it that they use certain protocols to basically encrypt your data and send it through one or multiple different servers so you are never exposed as the sender and receiver of the data. Some VPN providers like NordVPN also have dedicated DDoS relief servers which use stability check systems to monitor any unusual amount of internet traffic going through the server and then distribute and obfuscate it in order to minimize the negative effects on the user.
In conclusion, DDoS attacks affect both the service providers and the customers in a similar, negative manner. Companies become forced to invest ludicrous amounts of money toward security measures instead of improving their service and customers become further alienated from the market since they can't be 100% confident in the quality of the service they pay for. Companies can mitigate this by being as forthcoming and transparent in case of attacks that will affect their customers, and you can be as informed as possible and use the tips above to be at least partially protected from any malicious online activity.