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TOP3 Signs Your Website Has Come Under A DDoS Attack

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When your website is slower than usual, Google Analytics shows a sudden spike in traffic, or your site keeps crashing, your first thought may be: “Am I being hacked?”

A painfully slow or unresponsive website could indicate that you are indeed under a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS attack).

DDoS relies on botnets. They’re collections of infected devices (e.g. laptops, PCs, phones, or printers) controlled by a hacker and used to send high volumes of traffic to the targeted website.

Every website has a limit to how many requests it can accept per minute. Once traffic surpasses that, the site becomes overwhelmed.

As a result, it lags or has long downtimes.

Many DDoS victims aren’t even aware of the attack. When they identify an attack, usually months later, it has already escalated and caused major financial losses.

It can be challenging to spot a DDoS attack early. Every year they become more advanced, hackers strike the victim with larger volumes of bots, and the attacks evolve to bypass the security solutions businesses normally have.

So how can you tell if you’ve come under a DDoS attack

A sudden surge in traffic

Not every sudden spike in traffic points to a DDoS attack. Consider the latest changes on your online inventory, large sales, or Google’s algorithm updates.

For eCommerce sites, more traffic might just mean that your business is doing well. Your product is popular, or the marketing is paying off.

Major sales, such as those on Black Friday or during the Christmas season, can lead to a sudden increase in traffic. Take into consideration the date and the time of the year.

Check if Google changed its SEO guidelines lately. Changes in the algorithm and your SEO practices will affect your traffic. They can either cause your traffic to suddenly drop or result in an increased number of visitors.

Google Analytics (GA4) offers a detailed insight into your site’s regular traffic patterns. Here are a couple of questions to detect if the sudden surge of visitors on your website is genuine or a sign of bot traffic:

  • Is the traffic focused on one specific site?
  • Are all the visitors that flood the website coming from the same IP address or the same region?
  • Is the bounce rate on your website higher than usual?
  • Does the traffic appear at a specific time of the day?
  • How long does the surge in visitors last every day?
  • Do you have more traffic than ever, but no sales?

DDoS attacks can be challenging to spot. You might notice that the website is a bit slower than normal. A long time to load the product sites and complete the purchase will result in a poor user experience.

Within Google Analytics, you might notice an increased bounce rate after many frustrated users abandon their shopping carts and leave the site.

Essentially, you should look out for anomalies. 

For example, it’s not likely that a spike in traffic will happen for exactly 15 minutes every day at 5 PM. 

Alsoall those visitors will rarelyll come from the same country. You might notice that your users are coming from countries that don’t normally visit your website.

In reality, your traffic wouldn’t normally come from one specific IP address or even from a single IP range either. 

Errors from the 500 series

One sign of a DDoS attack might be server-related errors, known as 500-error. They indicate that the server is getting more requests than its current resources can handle.

For example, a couple of these errors that can appear during a DDoS incident are: 

  • 500 Internal Server Error that shows that something went wrong with the server, but it’s not clear what exactly
  • 503 error on the website that tells the user that the service is currently unavailable
  • 502 Bad Gateway that indicates a communication issue between the server and the service

These errors aren’t a definitive way to confirm a DDoS attack.

But they do show an overload of requests and troubles when attempting to communicate with the server — both of which are common during this type of cyber attack.

Alerts on your security solutions

Have your specialized security tools alerted your team of any anomalies and potentially suspicious traffic?

If you’re a company with a complex website, you know that it’s neither time nor cost-effective to seek these discrepancies manually. 

Therefore, you might already have a dedicated solution that blocks malicious bots right away. 

If you’re a company with an IT team, the tools you have should alert the security analysts that a website or an entire application are possible hacking victim.

The DDoS protector you have should reduce the risk of an attack by using AI to scan your website or entire infrastructure all the time and detect the attack in seconds.

What should you do if you’re under a DDoS attack?

The faster you uncover and start mitigating a DDoS attack, the lesser the cost of the aftermath. DDoS can cause expensive downtimes, require you to investigate the attack, and hire professionals to secure your site and prevent similar attacks in the future.

If it’s too late and you’ve already noticed a DDoS attack, some measures you can take are:

  • Activating DDoS mitigation services to handle the surges of traffic
  • Alerting your hosting provider of errors and suspicious traffic
  • Isolating malicious bot traffic from legitimate traffic
  • Increasing the bandwidth of your server
  • Disclosing the attack to your users
  • Notifying law enforcement
  • Improving security

However, the best you can do for your website is to choos a reliable hosting service. Then, draft a recovery plan and have cybersecurity solutions that can uncover the DDoS attacks in seconds.

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