DDoS attacks are still a very common way for hackers to ruin popular video games. For private users of dedicated servers we decided to tell what these attacks are about and how to protect against them.
9 February was the annual Safer Internet Day, which has been celebrated for 14 years across Europe. With this holiday, the European Commission wants to draw the attention of schools, companies and individuals to online safety and prudent use of the Internet. For gamers this topic is even more common. We can fall victim to hackers not only by opening a suspicious e-mail or downloading a file from an unverified source, but also by playing video games.
On the occasion of Safer Internet Day, together with OVHcloud we decided to bring you closer to the subject of DDoS attacks.
What is a DDoS attack?
DDoS is a Distributed Denial of Service, which is, quoting Wikipedia, "an attack on a computer system or network service in order to make it impossible to work by occupying all the available resources, carried out simultaneously from many computers".
In practice, hackers send many requests to the server from different computers simultaneously. The normal, stable work of the server is thus put to a serious test and often ends in a complete lack of availability of the service. DDoS attacks can also aim to use the resources of the server's system and block the response to correct queries. Most often, however, it is a malicious attack, which interferes with the correct functioning of the service.
You don't have to look far to find the consequences of this type of attack in our industry. On August 26, 2019, World of Warcraft Classic saw the light of day. Tens of thousands of fans of the popular MMORPG were waiting for this release for years. Lots of people took weeks off work just to quickly get through the leveling stage and reach the endgame.
Even on the very day of the premiere many players' plans were thwarted by the high load on the servers. Interest in Classic apparently exceeded Blizzard's capabilities and caused players to stand in queues for several hours just to get to the server. In early September, this problem was compounded by hackers. They decided to exploit Blizzard's weakness and send even more requests to the game's servers. Classic quickly became unplayable, and thousands of people spent hours refreshing the login screen.
The attack usually disrupts all the key network parameters for online gaming at once. We're talking about link stability, reduced bandwidth, latency, and sometimes a complete network shutdown. Gamers are a group that is particularly sensitive to stability fluctuations, even to the point that latency values above the average of about 100ms increase the probability of leaving for the competition by more than two times. With vagaries of 100-200ms, players often leave. Note that these types of attacks do not have to lay the target infrastructure, but only shake its stability, affect those parameters that the provider wants to maintain at a certain level, so that the quality of gameplay is consistent with the expectations of players. To ensure a good level of protection, the gaming infrastructure must be protected in an integrated way that understands its transmission protocols. Such an Anti-DDoS shield must understand the language that gamers speak to game servers. - Says Jakub Słociński, product manager and tech lead network defence at OVHcloud
Although cases of DDoS attacks date back as far as 2004, it's still a very big and difficult to fight threat. We regularly hear about problems with logging into servers of some popular games. Players can not enjoy their favorite titles, and the developers instead of developing their new product focus on the fight against hackers.
Fight against DDoS attacks
DDoS attacks, however, are not only a problem that affects Microsoft, Blizzard or other large publishers with popular AAA titles in their portfolios. A DDoS attack is not particularly difficult to carry out, and a little bit of spare time on the part of an experienced hacker is enough to deprive you of access to the server on which you spend your free time with your friends.
That's why, when discussing topics with OVHcloud, we so often pay attention to anti-DDoS solutions. For example, for the security and smooth operation of the game on dedicated servers, OVHcloud provides protection against "distributed denial of service" attacks. It consists of three layers that analyse in real time all the packets, redirect the traffic coming to our server and then separate the malicious requests from the rest. As a result, thanks to this specific "filter" only the traffic desired by the user is allowed to pass to the server.
Importantly, the OVHcloud technology filters both incoming and outgoing traffic. Combined with the high bandwidth servers and data centres located around the world, Anti-DDoS adds up to an overall guarantee of gaming comfort. During your evening sessions of Minecraft, Arma, or Rust, you may not even notice that at some point you've become the target of a DDoS attack. When you're thinking about investing in your own dedicated server, consider whether it's worth taking extra care with security, so that you won't be surprised later by a malicious attack at the worst possible moment.