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Broadcast storm

Broadcast storm

Broadcast storm definition

A broadcast storm is excessive broadcast traffic on a network segment that causes network congestion or slowdowns. It often occurs due to loops in the network, leading to broadcast frames being continuously transmitted and retransmitted, thereby consuming available bandwidth and bringing network operations to a halt.

See also: Spanning Tree Protocol, switching loop, network congestion

Effects of a broadcast storm

  • Network congestion. Excessive broadcast traffic saturates the available bandwidth, delaying legitimate traffic.
  • Degraded network performance. Devices within the network experience increased latency and reduced throughput, leading to slower response times and reduced efficiency.
  • Device resource exhaustion. Networking devices (switches, routers, etc.) have to process broadcast packets. A flood of such packets consumes CPU and memory resources, leading these devices to unresponsiveness or crashes.
  • Service disruption. Critical services like VoIP, video conferencing, and critical application servers that rely on network communication might become unavailable.
  • Data loss. In extreme cases, there might be data loss. This particularly concerns applications that require real-time data transmission or database operations.
  • Complications in troubleshooting. The sheer volume of broadcast traffic can make it challenging to identify the root cause of the problem, especially if monitoring tools and logging systems are affected by the storm.
  • Potential security risks. The chaos created by a broadcast storm could be exploited by malicious actors to conduct attacks or exfiltrate data, especially if network defenses are compromised.
  • Economic impact. Frequent broadcast storms, especially in business environments, can result in financial losses due to downtime, reduced productivity, and potential data loss.
  • Equipment wear and tear. Continuous processing of excessive traffic can cause networking equipment to operate at maximum capacity for extended periods, shortening the lifespan of the hardware.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security