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Denied: How DDoS attacks affect the consumer

Everyone knows what it feels like to be overwhelmed. Whether it's work, school or just family drama, sometimes life just dumps too much on you. When that happens, people often just shut down, unable to process everything that's going on. If that's ever happened to you, then congratulations, you know exactly what it feels like to be the victim of a distributed denial-of-service attack. 

These incidents are where hackers send a massive amount of data toward a web server, overloading it and basically forcing it to crash. What's more, they're becoming increasingly popular in the cyber security community. Akamai's Q1 2016 State of the Internet Security Report found that observations of these attacks had increased 23 percent over Q4 2015.

That said, DDoS attacks are usually levied against large organizations rather than individuals. So why do you need to know about them?

"Hackers often target media providers."

DDoS = downtime

First off, a DDoS attack levied at a company means that you likely won't be able to partake in the services that organization produces. Hackers often target media providers like video game makers or entertainment streaming institutions, as the entirety of their business models boils down to a need for solid uptime. What's more, these cyber criminals often pull off these attacks just for the fun of it.

A recent example of this is the incident that befell Blizzard, the makers of the popular game "World of Warcraft". In April 2016, hackers leveraged a DDoS attack against Blizzard that shut down all of their gaming services. Like any other DDoS hack, this event didn't culminate in any player data being stolen, but people weren't able to play the games that they'd rightfully paid for. 

You could be part of a botnet

In order to send these huge amounts of information, hackers need access to more than one computer. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a botnet, which is just a collection of infected computers that the cyber criminal can use at his discretion. This is the truly frightening part about DDoS attacks, as this means innocent people get caught in the crossfire. 

Botnets are malicious. Becoming part of a botnet takes control of your computer away from you.

In fact, hackers are recruiting computers for their respective botnets at an alarming rate. Joseph Demarest, assistant director at the FBI's Cyber Division, has stated that around 500 million machines are brought into botnets on an annual basis. That comes out to 18 computers infected every single second. While all of these computers probably won't will be used for DDoS attacks – botnets have a lot of nefarious uses – it's clear this kind of hack isn't just affecting the targeted organizations. 

What can you do to stay safe?

As always, the only way to remain secure here is to stay vigilant. You should never click on links sent to them via unknown email addresses and you should do everything they can to avoid less-than-reputable websites. On top of this, you should consider investing in cyber security software. These tools help catch the malware used to bring computers into botnets, ensuring that you're as safe as you can be while online