How to Stop And Prevent DDoS Attacks On Your Website?
If your website becomes a target of a DDoS attack, it can bring down your site in few minutes. Hackers target your website and overload your network and server. The DDoS attacks can make your website unresponsive and inaccessible to the user.
As a result, your business grinds to a halt and your revenue takes a plunge as you lose visitors and customers.
Recovering from a DDoS attack can cost small businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars. For bigger businesses, this recovery cost can skyrocket into millions of dollars.
Being prepared for such an attack is invaluable to your business. And fortunately, there are ways in which you can protect your website and prevent DDoS attacks.
In this article, we’ll explain how DDoS attacks work and we’ll show you how to prevent these attacks from occurring on your site.
TL;DR – In DDoS attacks, hackers send huge amounts of traffic to your website to overwhelm your server. This causes your site to shut down. To prevent this from happening, you need a robust firewall to block malicious traffic. Install the MalCare security plugin on your WordPress site. It will help reduce the risks of DDoS attacks by automatically installing an active firewall and monitoring the traffic to your site.
What is a DDoS Attack?
Imagine you take all the security measures you can on your site and now you’re confident that a hacker cannot break into it. But despite that, hackers can bring your website down and cause damage to your business.
They do this by launching DDoS attacks on your website. It’s frustrating as it can happen even after taking ample security measures and it brings devastating consequences.
Known as a Distributed Denial of Service attack, DDoS is a non-intrusive attack which means the hacker doesn’t need access to your site to run the attack. They carry out the hack remotely without ever breaking into your website.
Instead, they overload your website’s server to disrupt its functioning. Visitors most likely won’t be able to access your site, and the few who are able to will be met with a slow and unresponsive site.
Why do hackers launch DDoS attacks? There are plenty of reasons. Usually, hackers try to crack passwords to gain entry into your website. They launch a number of requests to try different combinations of usernames and passwords on your login page. These requests can overload your site.
Bigger DDoS attacks are launched to bring down big brands and disrupt their business. Hackers also use DDoS attacks to demand a ransom. Once the website owner pays the price, the hacker stops the DDoS attack.
How Does A DDoS Attack Work?
To understand how a DDoS attack works, we first need to understand how your website functions when a visitor wants to view a page. There is a process that takes place which we’ve detailed below.
- When a visitor comes to your website, their browser (such as Google Chrome) sends a request to your website’s server.
- The server processes this request fetches the necessary data and sends it back to the browser.
- The browser then uses this data to display the content of your website to the visitor.
Every server has only a limited amount of resources to run your website. This limit is usually granted by your web hosting provider depending on your hosting plan.
Now, each request from a visitor uses a certain amount of server resources. As your server resources are limited, it can handle only a certain number of browser requests at a time. Too many requests can burden the server and exhaust its resources.
This will cause your website to become slow and unresponsive. If the load on the server is too much, your website can crash and go offline.
Now, that you have an understanding of how browsers and origin servers communicate, we can explain how a DDoS attack works.
How Does A DDoS Attack Take Place?
Hackers plan DDoS attacks well in advance. You can think of it as hackers readying an army to attack your site.
1. They create a network of devices
Usually, they hack into computers and mobile phones and infect them with malware. (There have also been instances where DDoS attackers have used CCTVs and DVR cameras to launch DDoS attacks on sites.)
The malware will later allow them to send requests from the infected device to the targeted website. And this network of machines is called a botnet (their army). Hackers can also skip this step and hire a botnet that’s readily available on the dark web.
2. They launch thousands of ‘fake’ requests
They use the malware on every device on the botnet to command the machines to send requests to your web server.
3. They flood your server with more requests than it can handle
Every request exhausts a certain amount of resources. As more and more requests come in, your resources get exhausted. This causes it to crash, and in turn, your website goes offline.
In the event that a hacker is not able to launch a successful flood attack and take your site offline, the attack will affect your site’s speed and performance considerably. Visitors will be unable to view or navigate your site.
When your site is under a DDoS attack, you need to act fast. The longer your site is down, the more you stand to lose in terms of customers and revenue.
How to Detect a DDoS Attack on Your WordPress Site?
What makes DDoS attacks so difficult is that there are no warnings. At any time, a hacker can command volumetric attacks on your site. Since most WordPress site owners aren’t constantly browsing their own sites, it’s hard to see that your site is under attack.
In many cases, site owners are clueless until customers or visitors start complaining that they aren’t able to use your site. Only then do you realize that something is wrong with your site. You might think something is wrong with your server or your web host at first. You might check to see if a plugin or theme is causing an issue.
By the time you realize it’s a DDoS attack, several precious hours could go by. This means several hours of downtime, and more visitors and revenue lost.
The best way to mitigate a DDoS attack is to spot the signs early. There are many clues you could look out for that indicate it’s a DDoS attack:
1. Check your site’s traffic
In a DDoS attack, hackers send thousands of requests to your website. This means there will be a sudden spike in traffic.
You can check your website’s traffic using Google Analytics. Usually, it doesn’t reflect real-time data, however, you can turn on this setting.
- Sign in to Google Analytics.
- Navigate to your view.
- Open Reports.
- Click Real-Time.
Alternatively, you can also use a website security plugin like MalCare to check the traffic requests coming into your website. Install the plugin on your site, access the dashboard, and go to Security > Traffic requests.
If you see that a ton of requests is coming in within a span of few requests, this can be indicative of DDoS, especially if your website doesn’t usually get so much legitimate traffic.
2. Check your website’s data usage
The sole purpose of a DDoS attack is to exhaust your website’s resources. You can check how much of your website’s resources are being used.
Most hosting providers display your website’s statistics on your dashboard. Visit your hosting account and go to ‘Manage hosting’. Here, you should see the usage statistics.
Usually, your website won’t exhaust its resources easily. It will take a lot of traffic to your site to reach its limits.
If you see that your CPU usage and bandwidth has reached its limits, it’s mostly indicative of a DDoS attack.
Once you know you’re under attack, you need to act fast to stop it.
How to Stop a DDoS Attack?
A DDoS attack is targeted at your server, so regular security measures on your WordPress site won’t work. Many WordPress Guides on How to Stop DDoS Attacks will tell you to use a web application firewall (WAF). However, not all firewalls will help in this situation. Let us explain why.
Use a firewall to stop DDoS attacks?
You might install a firewall plugin on your WordPress site that monitors your traffic and blocks any malicious traffic and bad bots. Most of these firewalls work great on your WordPress site however, they have their limitations. This is because there are two kinds of requests that a firewall needs to capture here:
- Requests that use WordPress. For example, if a person visits example.com, a request is sent to your server to load your site. This kind of request uses your WordPress installation.
- Requests to your site that don’t need WordPress to load. In this, hackers have ways of sending requests such as example.com/readme.txt. The request doesn’t need WordPress.
You need a firewall that can capture both kinds of requests. But most application firewalls function only on WordPress and can capture only the first kind of request. Such plugins are ineffective in DDoS attacks.
Our MalCare plugin is releasing a new in-built firewall soon that will capture both kinds of requests. It will identify malicious traffic and block it before it reaches your site. This will help in DDoS mitigation.
Whichever plugin you choose to use, ensure it is capable of blocking both types of DDos Attacks or requests to your website.
Extra Measures to Stop DDoS Attacks?
Apart from the firewall, here are a few more measures you can take to stop a DDoS attack:
- Contact your host and check what measures they can take to help you. They most likely will take down your website temporarily. This will help stop the attack. You can then take preventive measures like installing a firewall before you make your website live again.
- Hire professional security services to help you mitigate the attack, implement DDoS security measures, and salvage your site.
- In some cases, hackers may use DDoS as a diversion to try and hack into your website. Install a WordPress malware scanner on your WordPress site immediately and check whether your site has been compromised and infected with malware.
If all fails, you might have to weather the storm. DDoS attacks don’t last forever, eventually, the attack will stop. This may not be an option for large businesses and eCommerce sites as the financial losses and costs of recovery will be too high. It could also be disastrous to a blogger whose livelihood depends on ad revenue.
Battling a DDoS attack is tough but with the right steps, you can recover from it. However, the best way to tackle a DDoS attack is to prevent it!
How to Prevent a DDoS Attack?
It’s easier and much cheaper to protect your website than to stop a DDoS attack and recover from it. Unfortunately, there is no silver-bullet measure you can take that will prevent a DDoS attack.
However, you can implement certain web security measures that will help you block a DDoS attack. But note, most of these measures are not set-and-forget. You need to use these measures to monitor your site’s activity and check your traffic regularly to spot a DDoS attack.
That said, to protect your site from a DDoS attack, you need to:
- Install a firewall
- Maintain an activity log
- Implement geoblocking
- Install a malware security scanner
You can implement these measures manually which requires technical expertise or by using different plugins. However, our MalCare security plugin covers all these measures under one roof. The plugin is easy to use and gives you access to all these features from a centralized management console.
In the next section, we’ll explain in detail why you need each of these measures to get DDoS protection for your site and show you how to use MalCare to implement them.
How MalCare Helps Protect Your Site Against DDoS Attacks?
1. It puts up a robust firewall
A firewall is your first line of defense against DDoS attacks. As we mentioned earlier, it checks all traffic and requests coming to your site. If it detects an intrusion or identifies a malicious bot attempting to access your site, it will block it.
When you install MalCare, the firewall is automatically set up on your site. With the upcoming release of our new firewall, MalCare will be able to reduce the risk of DDoS attacks on your site.
You can access the firewall from the MalCare dashboard. Select your site and go to Security.
Here, you can view your site’s Traffic Requests, Login Requests, Admin Logins, and Bot Visitors.
MalCare’s firewall gives your site protection against DDoS attacks in two ways:
- Proactively Block Malicious Traffic – Every device using the internet has a unique identification code called an IP address. If a particular IP address carries out malicious activities, the plugin detects and blacklists it. The firewall relies on a database of these blacklisted IP addresses. When a visitor’s browser makes a request to your website’s server, the firewall first checks the IP address against its database. If it is found to be blacklisted, the IP address is automatically blocked from accessing your site. Thus, it blocks the hacker before accessing the site. If good traffic is accidentally blocked, check out our guide on whitelisting an ip address.
- Proactively Block Suspicious Activity – Apart from relying on the database, the firewall will also analyze the kind of activity an IP address is carrying out on your website. For example, the firewall knows where your login requests usually originate from – say the United States. If a hacker in Russia is making incorrect login attempts on your site, it will flag it as suspicious and block it.
2. It enables you to monitor traffic requests
One of the main objectives of most websites is to garner more traffic. However, a sudden surge of hundreds of thousands of visitors to your site is suspicious. It can be indicative of a DDoS attack.
Under MalCare’s Security section, you can monitor the levels of traffic requests being made to your site. If you notice that your site’s speed and performance is slow for no apparent reason, we recommend checking this traffic request log.
This security platform will show you how many requests are coming in. It will display the IP address and country of origin as well. You can use this to determine an incoming DDoS attack. This will help you take measures immediately like temporarily taking your site offline and putting it in maintenance mode before the attack gets worse.
3. It enables geoblocking
Note: We do not recommend this method unless you have no other options. Use country blocking only if necessary.
As we just mentioned, MalCare gives you access to data of all login attempts and traffic requests made on your site.
By viewing these logs, you might begin to notice that malicious traffic trying to access your website originates from a few specific countries. The image below is a screenshot of MalCare’s log of Login Requests. You can see that there are many failed and blocked login attempts originating in Romania.
Our website doesn’t cater to Romania and therefore, it doesn’t need traffic from this country. In this case, you can just block all IP addresses originating in Romania. This is known as country blocking or geoblocking.
You can use MalCare to block entire countries from accessing your site in just a few clicks. To do this, select your site from the dashboard and click on ‘Manage’. Here, you will find the option of Geoblocking.
Next, select the countries you want to block and click on ‘Block Countries’. You can use the same method to unblock countries later if needed.
It’s important to note that in a DDoS attack, the botnets used comprise thousands of devices that are usually distributed around the world. So geoblocking is not a total solution to prevent DDoS attacks. Nonetheless, it can reduce the chances of such attacks. This step is particularly helpful when used in tandem with the other measures.
4. It has an in-built smart malware security scanner
Hackers sometimes use DDoS attacks in combination with other attacks. In such cases, they inject malware into your site that would help them further their attack.
If your site is under a DDoS attack, you need a web security scanner to scan for any malware infections.
MalCare will scan your site daily and alert you immediately if it detects anything suspicious or harmful. Thus, if hackers infect your site with malware, you can use MalCare to promptly clean it up and prevent any further damage.
That brings us to an end on protecting your site against DDoS attacks. With the above measures implemented on your site, the chances of such attacks are reduced. Plus, you are protected and prepared with a response plan in case of any attacks.
DDoS attacks used to be just an annoyance, but it has grown to be a serious cyber threat. If hackers are successful at a DDoS attack on your site, it can prove to be very painful and expensive.
This makes it so important to take preventive measures against these kinds of attacks. If you’ve followed our guide and installed MalCare on your WordPress site, you’ve taken adequate measures to prevent and respond to DDoS threats.
While MalCare automatically monitors your site, we recommend that you take advantage of the useful tools provided by MalCare to check your site’s activity, traffic, and logins regularly. This greatly helps in preventing DDoS attacks on your site.
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Melinda is a WordPress enthusiast, and enjoys sharing their experience with fellow enthusiasts. On the MalCare blog, Melinda distils the wisdom gained from building plugins to solve security issues that admins face.