You may find yourself going to a website that is not available. You read or hear that the website is the victim of a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. Is this right? And are you at risk as an internet user by going to a site under attack?
A DDoS or Distributed Denial-of-Service attack attempts to bring down a server by overloading it with a very large number of page requests. The server is unable to handle this large demand, making website or email traffic unavailable for a time, until the attack stops or is stopped.
Compare it to a traffic jam: you want to drive to Brussels, for example, but there is a traffic jam and you cannot get to your destination. Only when the road is clear again can you continue driving and reach your destination. In a DDoS attack, the congestion on the internet is caused deliberately.
In a DDoS attack, you will be inconvenienced as an internet user. During the attack, the website or an online service is unavailable and you cannot access it. A DDoS attack does not steal data or involve installing a virus.
A DDoS attack has no impact on the security of a website.
Website administrators can take measures to protect against DDoS attacks. However, these measures cannot guarantee 100% protection.
Perpetrators use a DDoS attack to attract attention or to damage the victim's reputation: due to the unavailability of a frequently visited website, a DDoS attack is quickly noticed by many people. That is why such attacks often get a lot of press coverage.
The owner of the website under attack suffers image damage but also economic damage. Services offered are not available and there is a cost to fend off the attack.
A DDoS attack can also be launched for the purpose of sabotage. Web stores that are unavailable cannot sell products or provide services online during the attack.
Occasionally, a DDoS attack is used to mask another attack.