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What are DDoS attack tools? Five methods to avoid them

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are among the most widespread cyber threats today. There are several tools that can be employed to execute them. What are they, and, more importantly, how do you protect yourself from them?

What are DDoS attack tools? Five methods to avoid them

What are DDoS attack tools?

DDoS attack tools are software applications that overload systems with massive amounts of traffic – a practice known as a DDoS attack (distributed denial-of-service attack). Such an attack disrupts the functioning of the targeted server and makes it unresponsive and unusable for legitimate users and traffic.

Distributed denial-of-service attacks are often performed using botnets – large networks of devices infected with malware, allowing hackers to control them without the users’ knowledge. By using malware and botnets, hackers can access millions of devices connected to the internet and launch massive DDoS attacks with traffic sources from all over the world.

However, you don’t have to be a hacker to learn about their tools. It’s always good to know what programs cybercriminals are using these days. By learning about the DDoS tools used in attacks, you can take precautions before something serious – like an actual attack – happens.

What are the ways to protect against DDoS attack tools?

Hackers use various DDoS attack tools and methods to achieve the same goal: flood the victim with traffic so that it runs out of resources and stops functioning entirely. DDoS is one of the most common cyberattacks, so naturally, cybersecurity experts have developed several strategies to protect themselves. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Limiting traffic rates. Rate limiting is one of the most basic and crucial methods for enhancing cybersecurity. It operates at the application level, restricting the number of requests each IP address can send. If an IP address sends excessive requests, the rate-limiting algorithm should block subsequent attempts. Rate limiting serves as the initial line of defense against DDoS attacks and other cyber threats.
  • Web application firewall (WAF). A WAF uses the OSI layer 7 protocols and acts as a virtual barrier that protects web applications from various threats by monitoring and filtering incoming and outgoing HTTP traffic. It can prevent attacks such as SQL injections and help mitigate DDoS attacks, but it is not a comprehensive security measure. It is advisable to deploy WAF as part of a wider set of DDoS attack prevention tools.
  • Monitoring traffic. DDoS attack detection tools monitor and analyze traffic, allowing you to detect anomalies in real-time. These programs scan networks and alert users if they spot any malicious attempts to target the servers. Such monitoring is essential – the sooner you know someone is targeting you, the faster you can block the incoming traffic and mitigate the attack.
  • Cloud-based protection. Cloud-based solutions are often more affordable and flexible than in-house solutions. Service providers can scale and customize their DDoS protection to fit the needs of small and large customers alike. They have the resources to mitigate even massive-scale DDoS attacks effectively.
  • Performing regular assessments. Cybersecurity is a complex field, and managing networks is challenging. Human errors and oversights are inevitable, but assessments and simulations can help you detect them. By performing regular attack simulations and security evaluations, you can view your network from the attacker’s perspective and identify which weak points need improvement.

How are DDoS attack tools classified?

Several DDoS attack tools and methods exist, and there are various ways to categorize them. They differ based on mechanisms, protocols, or the specific OSI model layers targeted by attackers.

Application layer attack tools

Layer 7 or application layer DDoS attack tools specifically target web services by exploiting vulnerabilities that may arise between the user interface and the website’s backend. These Layer 7 attacks focus on communication protocols, such as HTTP. Hackers employ application layer DDoS tools to mimic legitimate traffic, launching attacks that are difficult to detect.

Transport layer attack tools

DDoS attack tools for Windows and other operating systems that leverage the transport layer focus on protocols like TCP and UDP to deploy large volumes of malicious traffic toward a targeted server. For instance, a SYN flood attack targets the TCP protocol specifically by sending numerous SYN packets to initiate a connection with a server but never actually completing the process.

Low and slow attack tools

The low and slow technique, also called the slow-rate technique, operates by sending the victim a small stream of traffic at a deliberately slow pace. The low and slow approach consumes little bandwidth on the attacker’s end and can be challenging to detect because it closely resembles legitimate internet traffic.

Are DDoS attack tools illegal?

Downloading DDoS tools to attack and damage systems and devices is illegal in most places. In the United States, participating in DDoS attacks is considered a cybercrime and is punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

However, the intent is key here, so simply downloading DDoS tools for research or self-testing isn’t illegal. Regardless, it’s always good to check your local laws and make sure you’re not doing anything wrong.