One of the most potent tools in a cyber criminal's arsenal is the 'distributed denial of service' attack - commonly known as a DDoS attack. These prolific hacks can take even the most protected computers offline.
Notable DDoS attacks include the Christmas day campaign that brought the PlayStation and Xbox live networks down and, most recently, taken most of the internet offline, including popular sites such as Twitter, eBay and the Telegraph.
Here's everything you need to know about DDoS attacks.
How does a DDoS attack work?
DDoS attacks harness the power of a network of tens of thousands of compromised computers, known as a "botnet", to flood a website's servers with page view requests, leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through.
In a similar way that sites such as Ticketmaster crash when one-off or hugely popular event tickets are released, DDoS attacks overwhelm the target server, flooding it with traffic so that it's unable to function properly.
The huge amount of connection requests can, in some cases, cause entire websites to crash.
How does a computer become part of a botnet?
In order to add computers to a botnet, a hacker must first gain control of the machine. They achieve this by exploiting vulnerabilities within the computer's operating system to install malicious software on the computer that provides them with always-on, remote access to the PC.
This means that attackers can exploit your computer to use it as part of the DDoS attack, or access it remotely and retrieve usernames, passwords, financial information and other sensitive data.
Laptops, computers and other internet-connected devices can be turned into a botnet army
Could my computer be affected?
Any computer is vulnerable to being added to a botnet. The malware necessary to exploit devices can be installed without your knowledge if you click on a malicious link, or visit a website that is serving infected adverts.
That's why it's crucial to ensure your antivirus software is up-to-date, that you have downloaded and installed the latest security patches for your computer, and that you are using a firewall to control what programs can and cannot gain access to their machine via the internet. If you don't have this protection, you're an easy target for hackers.
Read more here: www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/what-is-a-ddos-attack-and-could-my-computer-be-a-weapon/