Can a VPN protect you from DDoS?

4 min

Can a VPN stop DDoS? The short answer is unfortunately very unsatisfying: ‘yes, sort of’. But why? What has this kind of hack to do with VPN? Read on to learn what DDoS is about, why it is so feared, and what level of protection a VPN can provide.

DoS – Denial of Service sounds intimidating, even if you’re unfamiliar with this danger. In real life, a denial of service reminds a shop so crowded that it can no longer serve you. In the IT world, the analogy is accurate. Denial of service occurs when a certain online entity is not working properly because of being overcrowded. It usually is an issue happening with a server that hosts websites. When your browser requests a website whose server does not function properly (for various reasons), usually only an error message is displayed on the screen. Servers must work 24/7, and such a situation isn’t normal. An error message typically means either maintenance work in progress or trouble – like a hacking attack. Let’s explain how such an assault is carried out and what it has to do with VPN.

What is DDoS about

Denial of service means that a certain device is so overloaded with an unusually big amount of tasks that it cannot process them normally. A web server stores web pages and presents them to Internet users immediately on their demand. Of course, it is only seemingly instantaneous. It takes a little time to establish a connection, read and process the request and respond with the proper content. The server is a computer with components like every other electronic device. It has finite resources of memory and computing power. It might simply run out of those resources when a very large amount of requests is coming in at the same time. The results of such overload are slow work, unexpected behaviors, or even system errors (including a hang).

A DoS incident is intentionally triggering the overload with fake requests. They don’t come from legitimate users who accidentally happened to flood the server with web requests. There are two types of attacks. In ordinary DoS, a hacker uses just one computer to produce as many requests as possible. This concerns mostly attacks against regular Internet users.

The second case is Distributed DoS (DDoS). It has a larger scale and is more dangerous. The perpetrator first needs to gain control over several devices, sometimes even thousands of them. Usually, it involves infecting them with malware. Then, going behind the backs of the owners of such devices, he uses them like mercenaries, assaulting the target as a distributed network. Experts call such a device a bot, and a cluster of them is called a botnet. Lately, the number of devices endangered by the possibility of becoming bots is growing fast. The reason is the development of 5G and the Internet of Things. The more devices are online, the more potential victims there are. The attack targets could be large institutions, like corporations, banks, or governments. The most spectacular DDoSes lasted even for days and caused million-dollar losses in revenue. And money is not everything at stake. In recent years, DDoS attacks have become so common that any firm should expect one sooner or later. The question is: how will it be handled? A system that isn’t resistant enough is simply untrustworthy. A successful DDoS attack could ruin a company’s reputation. No customer likes to be annoyed with an unresponsive website! Furthermore, as a recent report by Kaspersky indicates, DDoS is a serious weapon of modern warfare. The Ukraine-Russia conflict is the newest example. Both sides used this attack to disorganize the enemy’s operations.

Is DDoS dangerous for me?

Criminals target companies far more often than ordinary persons. The reasons are blackmailing illegal competition and politics. There are, however, some cases when private persons get targeted, too. If you work on anything that a criminal might want to disrupt – you become a target. If you work remotely, then your laptop might be more vulnerable, as it’s away from the office network. Another case is online gaming. It requires low latency to be able to react rapidly in a fast-paced shooter or racing. A short lag in an unfortunate moment might end in you losing. DDoS is a very nasty cheat, but it is also hard to detect. This is a serious issue in esports.

As you might have deduced, the DoS attacks aren’t thefts. Nobody’s data, identity, or money gets stolen. Nevertheless, it’s a dangerous situation. It disturbs someone’s work, stops a business from operating smoothly, or prepares the ground for other attacks. Heavy computational overload makes a computer more vulnerable. The hard part of the defense against DDoS is telling the difference between accidental, legitimate overload and an intentional attack. Criminals attempt to disguise their actions as if they weren’t an attack at all. How to stop it? Filter the packets, increase the bandwidth, or use a VPN to prevent DDoS. So let’s explain DDoS VPN protection.

Does VPN prevent DDoS?

The DDoS attack is aimed at a chosen entity. The hacker needs to know precisely where his or her target is located. In many cases, this means obtaining its IP address – a basic way of locating anything in the virtual world. IP addresses are publicly known. Networking protocols need them as sources and destinations of data transfer. As a result, locating the target of the attack is easy for the hacker. But what if it was impossible?

DDoS protection of VPN is based on the simple idea of hiding behind a fake IP address. If you subscribe to a VPN service, web requests from your device get redirected via a secure tunnel to a remote server. There, the IP is altered from yours to that of the VPN’s server, and packets are forwarded to the actual destinations. So if an attacker targets you by peeking into your web transfer, he actually can’t obtain your true IP. He would end up with the VPN provider’s IP. Still, can you get a DDoS with a VPN? The provider might be attacked instead of you. That would indirectly harm you, too. But attacking a system run by experts is a whole other story than hacking an average Internet user. It requires far more resources and defeating professional anti-DDoS protection. Fighting off DDoS is of utmost importance to any IT organization. So the odds of targeting a professional instead of a normal user are very slim.

To sum up: does VPN stop DDoS? It does, partly. VPN DDoS protection is not intentionally aimed against this sort of attack. It is more of an additional bonus of VPNs being able to alter IP addresses. If the hacker already knows the true IP of his target, then VPN can’t help you. If you’re serious about DDoS protection, you need to employ more sophisticated means of defense. It’s best to seek professional advice on cybersecurity than relying solely on a VPN. Remember that prevention has saved many companies a lot of money, mental pressure, and reputation.

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