Skip to main content

Home Network Meltdown

Network Meltdown

Network meltdown definition

A network meltdown is a severe disruption of network services by a dramatic slowdown or complete halt of its traffic. It happens when a network becomes overwhelmed with excessive data or malicious traffic, leading to a breakdown in normal operations. Network meltdowns can be caused by misconfigurations, hardware failures, or deliberate cyber attacks.

See also: DDoS mitigation, Packet loss, Network security architecture

How network meltdowns happen

Accidental or deliberate, network meltdowns usually follow a similar pattern:

  1. 1.The network is flooded by an unusually high volume of traffic. This traffic can be legitimate, like a surge in user activity during a massive sale campaign, or malicious, like a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. In a DDoS attack, numerous compromised systems flood the target network with traffic, overwhelming it completely.
  2. 2.As the excessive traffic flows through the network, routers, switches, and other networking devices struggle to handle the load. The devices reach their limits, causing significant delays in processing data packets.
  3. 3.Under heavy load, the network begins to drop some of the packets. This, together with increased delays in data transmission, result in poor performance, disrupting communication between devices and applications.
  4. 4.Critical services, like email, web applications, and internal communications, experience slowdowns or become completely unavailable. It severely affects business operations, productivity, and user experience.
  5. 5.The sustained high traffic can lead to hardware failures or software crashes. Overloaded network devices may malfunction or shut down, worsening the problem.
  6. 6.During a network meltdown, security monitoring and defenses also become less effective. Attackers can exploit the chaos to launch additional attacks or move within the network, causing further damage.