DDoS Attacks – The Whats, Whys, and Hows

DDoS Attacks - Understanding it for Protecting WordPress Websites

WordPress websites are the most common platforms on which websites are designed and developed today. The credit of its popularity goes to the easy-to-use themes, backend editor, and continuously updated security protocols. Even with such a growing popularity, it does come with its own set of costs which range from managing the website continuously given it is an open source platform to dealing with cyber security issues.

In this article, our focus will be on a particular cost of WordPress website – cyber security – in which we will be scrutinizing one threat in particular – DDos attacks. Why? It is because no matter how small or big a website is, a DDoS attack at first can slow it down, then gradually make it inaccessible to visitors. Therefore, it is important to know how to deal with this issue when it occurs so as to protect the website.

But first, let’s start by discussing what exactly is a DDos attack and why it is so important when it comes to WordPress websites.

Defining DDoS Attacks

DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service attack is an advanced attack form of Dos or Denial of Service attack. Compared to DoS, a DDoS attack takes advantage of multiple servers that are located across different regions making the attack distributed, and more effective. How? 

A hacker creates a web of compromised computers or servers, often called a botnet, where each of these act as an individual bot and launch a simultaneous attack on the intended WordPress website server. The question is why use so many bots? Simple because such an attack can go unnoticed for a long time, thus allowing them to cause the highest level of damage to the target before it gets blocked. 

A very famous DDos attack happened in 2016 on a company called DYN – a DNS provider because of which websites like Paypal, AirBnB, Visa, Netflix, Reddit and many thousands of websites were affected by it. So, what did the hacker get out of this? Why was this attack given global news coverage? Why is this attack so important? 

Let’s discuss this in the following part.

Why is DDoS attack on WordPress websites important?

1. Website Downtime

One of the most basic reasons any hacker would deploy a DDoS attack on any website is to bring your website down either because of business rivalry or just plain old fun. What does this mean for your business? It means that while your website becomes inaccessible to your customers due to a 502 Gateway Error, you are losing valuable business as recovering from this takes time due to technical difficulties.

2. Dip in SEO Rankings

SEO works on many continuous algorithms to keep your website on Google rankings based on your website’s visibility. If your website is down for an extended period of time it can lead to a decrease in your SEO rankings. With this decrease, you will have to work hard again to make your website available on the desired level of rankings so as to become again searchable for the customers.

3. Increase in Vulnerability

One of the reasons a DDoS attack can be initiated as a distraction is to gain valuable information about your business as well as the user database that includes credit card details and so on. The question is how? Once your website is down, your whole focus will shift on having it back online, leaving your WordPress website open to many other security vulnerabilities that result because of this attack.

4. Web Hosting Problems

Since a DDoS attack is carried out using hosting servers, it can become a high risk factor for you if you are on a shared hosting plan. For instance, if one website gets hacked, your website also becomes vulnerable to the breach. As a precaution, it is always a good idea to have a private hosting server.

Now, in light of the above mentioned case, put all these effects in perspective, and imagine the consequences faced by the most famous websites with hundreds of thousands user databases. This is where it becomes important to not only stop a DDoS attack but prevent it from happening in the first place.

However, stopping a DDoS attack is not that simple but also it is not that difficult. Here are a few tips on how you can protect your WordPress website from DDoS attacks.

Tips on Protecting WordPress website from DDos Attacks

1. Disabling RestAPIs and XMLR RPC on your WordPress website

This is a technical method for protecting your WordPress website from a DDoS attack. Here’s how it works:
    • XML RPC is a feature that allows you to trace pingbacks and trackbacks. The downside of using this is its built-in vulnerability that can be exploited by the hacker for an attack. It is recommended to disable it by making a small change in your .htaccess file. One you have access to this file, you can insert this code in it to disable XML RPC:
# Block WordPress xmlrpc.php requests
<Files xmlrpc.php>
order deny,allow
deny from all
</Files>
  • Another method to prevent a DDoS attack is to disable the RestAPIs as this can also be used to gain access to your WordPress website. You can do this by installing WP Hide and Security Enhancer where a disable option is available under WP Hide > JSON AP.

2. Installing a WAF (Web Application Firewall)

Web Application Firewall of WAF for short is a software firewall that is considered as the first line of defence for your WordPress website against any malicious attacks including DDoS. It limits user access as well as filters bots so that your website is protected against multiple unwarranted users.

There are many different types of firewall security software available in the market that you can choose from. Our recommendation is to go for Sucuri as it offers multiple packages ranging from protecting your website from brute force attacks to DDoS attacks.

3. Choosing a Reliable Web Hosting Service

Choosing a reliable and secure Web Hosting Service is of utmost importance. Not only it plays an important role in the performance of a website, but also plays an important part in the security of your website. In case of DDoS attack, choosing a web hosting service that can not only handle but also detect overwhelming influx of traffic and mark it as a red flag is an important security marker.

Although cost is one of the most important factors many consider when choosing a web hosting service, it is imperative to state that it should not come at the cost of risking valuable information on your website.

4. Using CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A content delivery network or CDN for short is an additional server that helps you balance the load of your WordPress website. Although it is mostly used as an optimization tool for performance, it can work for securing the website as well. Since it is actually an additional server, it becomes a bit more difficult to overwhelm the intended or target server of the DDoS attack thus mitigating. In addition, it can also help in detecting unusually high traffic and can work as an alternate proxy in case of any attack.

There are many services that offer CDN. Choosing the right one will depend on your requirements and the cost. It is recommended that you choose the one that offers website protection from DDoS attacks such as CloudFare.

5. Installing a DDoS Plugin for WordPress

One of the best features of having a WordPress website is the abundance of plugins that can be installed to enhance any website. One such plugin is for security that should be used to prevent any malicious attacks on WordPress websites, especially a DDoS attack.

One such plugin that is recommended is WordFence which has the ability to protect your WordPress website from DDoS attacks by limiting login attempts, detecting bad IP addresses and URLs, and blocking any bots that may be used for an attack.

Prevention is Better than Mitigation

In this article, we have tried to cover as much information about a DDoS attack as possible. In our experience, it is important to be proactive rather than reactive – to already have all the measures in place that can help you prevent a DDoS attack on your WordPress website rather than reactively protecting it from an already initiated attack. For both of these measures, you can Contact Us, and we will make it a priority to monitor and do maintenance of your website so that your WordPress website is heavily protected from a DDoS attack.