If your business has a webshop, you know that sales depend on a positive user experience. If your site has ever gone down, you also know how quickly an outage impacts profits and reputation. You want to be aware of an increasingly common cyber threat called a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack and how you can protect your e-commerce website.
What is a DDoS Attack?
A DDoS attack is a remote assault that jams your web server with malicious traffic, degrading performance or preventing access. The attack works by flooding your server’s communication ports with fraudulent data, blocking legitimate connection requests. Visitors can’t connect to view your content or make transactions. They may experience extreme slowness, frozen navigation, failed transactions, or even a site crash.
DDoS attacks can quickly overwhelm a webshop because they direct a cohort of hijacked computers, called a botnet, to simultaneously bombard the target. A distributed assault is more damaging than that of a single system and more challenging to trace. If you are responsible for a webshop, your best recourse is prevention.
Why Your Webshop Is a Target
E-commerce sites are particularly vulnerable to DDoS threats. The natural spikes in user traffic consume server bandwidth, making it easier for attackers to break strained resources. You or your IT provider should monitor traffic patterns closely for signs of compromise amid dynamic data.
A variation of the classic DDoS threat is the denial of inventory attack. In this scenario, attack bots fill up an e-commerce site’s shopping carts until items show as out of stock. Legitimate customers can’t make purchases. This assault can devastate a business’s income and reputation.
Peak sales activity, such as when introducing a new product or promotion, is prime time for attackers to strike. Server resources are loaded, and traffic is flowing in bursts from diverse sources. These conditions provide camouflage for a DDoS assault on your e-commerce site.
Even a short outage can derail your business’s finances and reputation long-term. The average downtime from a DDoS attack is 7 to 12 hours. Internet shoppers are fickle. If your site is down, they often jump to a competitor and may never return. Customers quickly lose trust in online merchants that seem flaky or unable to handle the vagaries of technology. Once they leave, they are hard to win back.
Signs Your Webshop is Under Attack
Your first hint that attackers have found your webshop will likely come from frustrated visitors. If you have robust IT support, an analyst might notice unusual traffic spikes or other red flags and have time to contain the threat before it impacts too many users. If not, your site may crash before you realize what has happened.
Signs your webshop may be compromised:
– Visitors complain your site is very slow.
– Customers can’t complete shopping cart transactions.
– Your site appears to be down and shows users a 503 error.
– Your traffic statistics show large, anomalous surges.
– How to Protect Your Webshop
As an e-commerce merchant, you may assume your ISP provides adequate protection against DDoS threats. It doesn’t. The sophistication and brute force of an IP layer assault will overwhelm standard ISP defenses. You want a protection solution that monitors and analyzes traffic, sets a secure firewall, and provides clean data pathways to your servers.
Most webshops rely on cloud services or content delivery networks, which often include a cyber-protection suite. However, the quality of free DDoS protection varies. Take the time to compare protection services and make an informed choice.
– Cloud-Based Protection
Cloud services offer DDoS protection that advantageously catches malicious traffic before it ever reaches your webshop servers. Cloud protection offers clean traffic channels that accommodate a range of e-commerce traffic volumes and fluctuations. You want to implement this service before you need it and not wait until crunch time or a breach. Keep in mind that attackers often target peak shopping windows such as holidays, so work with your provider to defend your servers beforehand. You will retain your customers and save the steep expense of IT emergency services.
– Content Delivery Networks
If you aren’t already using a content delivery network (CDN) server configuration, you may want to consider doing so as your business grows. A CDN provides DDoS protection in addition to system load balancing and performance tuning. The combination helps ensure a fast and seamless user experience, and the technology scales with your business.
– Use Best Practices
You can mitigate threats to your webshop by adopting sound in-house security practices. Attackers increasingly pair DDoS attacks with other types of hacks for financial gain, so you want to take a comprehensive approach to defense planning.
Make security a business priority for your team. Each person should take ownership of smart practices and be encouraged to raise concerns.
Some best practices to consider:
– Don’t store customer data. Sensitive data makes your business a hacker target and opens you up to liability. Use a third party to handle transactions.
– Enforce robust password creation for customers. Require minimum length and a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
– Use cloud-based systems. Software as a service (SaaS) implements the most effective and comprehensive internet protection strategies.
– Include security topics in your team’s training plan. Make security a key performance objective for each employee.
If a DDoS attack hasn’t yet targeted your webshop, it’s only a matter of time. An attempt may herald other cyber threats such as ransomware or data theft. Your business’s success and your customers’ security depend on you preparing effective defenses during the good times. When the unexpected hits, your webshop will be ready and able to thrive.