Cyber criminals are constantly developing tools to infiltrate different networks. One of the most alarming and widespread cyber threats that exist right now are DDoS attacks.
But how are spam emails related to DDoS?
DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attacks use email spam in two main ways. Firstly, they use phishing emails to infect your electronic internet enabled devices with malware to form a botnet. Secondly, attackers send personalized emails to extort money from website owners by threatening DDoS attacks
The different types of DDoS attacks threaten cybersecurity for organizations and businesses, costing companies up to $2.5M per attack. Let’s discuss this threat in more detail and find out how you can protect yourself from it.
What Is A DDoS Attack?
DDoS or distributed denial of service attack, similar to DoS, denial of service attack, floods a website or a mobile application with traffic to overflow the servers and shut down the website or app. The main difference between the two is, DDoS uses multiple machines or computers to flood/overwhelm a target.
Simply put, DDoS is a DoS attack where hackers will try and crash a website or app by overwhelming the server with more traffic than it can handle using a network of devices. The traffic consists of incoming messages, requests for connections, or fake packets. The goals of these attacks are primarily financial and political. In financially motivated attacks, the attacker will often threaten the victim with a low-level attack and demand ransom with a threat of a full-blown attack. They can also demand payment by holding websites inaccessible for users.
During a DDoS attack, perpetrators use the entire network infected devices, such as botnets, as the source of attacks. The distributed network makes it nearly impossible to identify the source of the attack or to block it. Devices within the Internet of Things (IoT) are most suited for this purpose as the number of these devices is constantly growing, yet the security remains, in large inadequate.
The three most common methods of DDoS attacks include –
- Volumetric attacks
- Protocol attacks
- Application layer attacks
How Do DDoS Attackers Use Spam Emails?
In DDoS, multiple machines work together to attack one target. To execute an attack, hackers use phishing emails to install the malware in remote devices that becomes part of the DDoS botnet. The scary part is, your PC may be a part of a botnet without you even knowing it.
The attackers often send spam emails, including personalized messages, to manipulate recipients to download an attachment or click on a link. Any interactions with spam emails can install malware to your devices that will later be used in DDoS attacks. DDoS botnets include PCs, servers, mobile phones, and IoT devices infected and controlled by malware. The devices used in the DDoS attacks, also known as “zombie computers”, can range from thousands to millions in number within a botnet. The more widespread the botnet is, the higher is the rate of attack.
Another way attackers use spam emails is to send you a personalized email promising to commit a DDoS attack on your website. In most cases, the attackers will demand a one-time payment in Bitcoins, an untraceable form of cryptocurrency, within a certain amount of time. Even though it is similar to ransom attacks, instead of delivering a malicious payload, they bank on the fact that a certain percentage of their target will take their threat seriously enough to pay the ransom.
How to Know If Your Computer is Part of DDoS Attack
More often than not, the user of the devices used as a part of a DDoS attack remains unknown of the fact that they are a part of the botnet. Here are five signs that your computer is a part of a botnet –
- You are experiencing slow internet
- Your PC keeps shutting down on its own
- You cannot close specific programs on your computer
- You cannot update your OS
- Your antivirus software has detected a malware
How to Protect Your Email from DDoS Threats
As previously mentioned, attackers use spam emails to take control of your devices to add them to their botnet or threaten you to commit a possible DDoS attack on your website. Either way, protecting your email address on the internet is the first step to defending yourself from such threats.
Your email address is a valuable asset that should not be exposed on the internet. However, due to the exponential increase in online transactions, the odds of your email address already existing on the web is very high. Spammers can store it offline and add it to their target lists for spamming with malware if it exists on the web. To check whether your email address is protected or not, go to Sniff Email — an online platform dedicated to finding out if your email address exists on the internet. Enter your email address in the search field and click fetch to find out if your email address exists on the internet within a few seconds. Based on the results, you can take appropriate action to remove it.