DDoS attacks are a major concern, especially for companies who rely on having functional websites (which is most companies), and recent high-profile cases have increased this fear.
Attacks are on the rise too, with a total of 86 countries coming under attack in Q2 2017 compared to 72 in the previous quarter. Cisco has predicted that the annual number of DDoS attacks will rise to 17 million by 2020, and can account for 10% of a country’s total traffic. This is terrifying, considering that the financial services industry lost an average of $17 million per DDoS attack in 2012.
This type of attack is often misunderstood, however, despite the massive implications it can have on a business. So, what exactly is DDoS?
DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service attacks, begin when hackers take control of a large number of devices, or ‘bots’. These can be anything from mobile phones to laptops – anything that can access the internet. Often, the owners of the devices have no idea that they’ve been hacked and never will.
Once the hackers’ network of infected devices is large enough, they take control and send each device to a particular website. Again, the owners of the devices may be totally unaware that this is happening.
The aim is to overwhelm the target website’s server with a huge amount of traffic, causing the site to slow down significantly or even stop working. This can be catastrophic for organizations, causing them to lose large amounts of money through site inactivity or suffer reputational damage.
What are the current solutions?
Currently, DDoS attacks are notoriously difficult to defend against. One existing method to deal with the issue is to identify ‘bad’ traffic and block it, while allowing ‘good’ traffic through. This is tough to achieve, because it’s hard to correctly separate traffic which is unwanted spam from traffic which is potential paying customers.
Another technique called ‘blackholing’ involves simply redirecting all traffic away from the site for a period of time. This prevents the bandwidth from becoming overwhelmed so the site remains active, but also prevents genuine traffic from reaching the site. In effect, the end result is the same, and the hackers win.
One of the more effective solutions is to decentralize the site’s delivery, so there is no one central server vulnerable to attack. While this has been shown to be fairly successful, it’s also highly expensive and remains vulnerable to more high-level attacks.
Using Ethereum and Blockchain to solve the problem
The solution to the DDoS problem may lie in blockchain technology. Blockchain has taken the world by storm in recent times, gaining recognition as the system behind Bitcoin. There’s a lot of excitement around blockchain’s potential to revolutionize the way information is stored, and a company called Gladius think it can solve the DDoS problem.
How will this work? DDoS works by targeting bandwidth – the attack is successful if the perpetrators can hurl enough traffic at the server to totally consume its bandwidth.
That means that disaster can be averted by simply providing more bandwidth, preventing the attackers from being able to use all of it.
In the current system sites have a set amount of bandwidth, so once the attackers have flooded it with attacks, it’s game over. This is because servers are centralized.
Gladius will get around this by giving sites access to extra bandwidth, so in case of an attack they can draw on this and stop the spam traffic from overcoming their server.
Where will this extra bandwidth come from? It will be provided by other members of the Gladius network, who will be able to ‘rent out’ their spare bandwidth to help fellow servers defend against DDoS onslaughts. Using blockchain technology, it’ll be possible to create a decentralized network of servers that can easily send bandwidth to those in need.
In return for their efforts, they will be rewarded with Gladius tokens (GLA), a type of cryptocurrency which can be sold back to websites for money. This is a win-win scenario – the DDoS victim gets extra bandwidth to withstand the flood of malicious traffic, and the bandwidth donors get valuable tokens.
Most of us don’t use all of our bandwidth; there’s generally a fair amount of it going unused at any given time. This means that members of the network have nothing to lose by siphoning some of their unused bandwidth to their less fortunate peers – and a lot to gain.