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You might not have noticed, but March of 2013 saw the largest cyber-attack in the history of the Web. A so-called super-DDoS attack was aimed at Spamhaus, a company trying to rid the online world of as much spam as possible, which it does primarily by building an archive of all the IPs it suspects of distributing large amounts of spam. Apparently, some of the black-listed spammers got a bit angry, launching an attack that peaked at 300gbps, and was so strong it actually disrupted much of the world’s online experience for a couple of hours.

For comparison, a 50gbps attack would be able to easily take down a website and be classified as a severe assault. And that might even be considered the good news. Because now, a new security report claims that DDoS attacks are rising in both numbers and strength, which would result in all of us connected to the Web experiencing the tremors more often, regardless of where we are in the world or whether we’re in any way connected to the website that’s under attack or not.

So first of all, what is a DDoS attack? Well, the acronym stands for ‘distributed denial of service’, and it basically does what it sounds like: denies the website a chance to be of service. The purpose of a DDoS is to render the web server or a network unavailable to anyone trying to use it, most often accomplished by saturating the site with way too many website requests making it unable respond to virtually any of the upcoming legitimate traffic. It’s a fancy name for a server overload.

As of yet, no DDoS came even close to the Spamhaus attack in the third quarter of 2013, although August had the closest contender: a denial of service attack executed with the speed of 191gbps. However, whereas extreme cases seem to be decreasing in numbers, the same can’t be said for the small and mid-size DDoS attacks: the average attack size for the third quarter was between 3 and 3.5gbps.

Compare that to 1.48gbps for the same quarter last year, and you clearly see the attacks are getting much stronger. However, they’re becoming more frequent as well: there were four times more DDoS attacks that went over the (pretty serious) 20gbps mark relative to 2012. With DDoSs increasing in both number and size, we can only expect online security firms to get their hands busier than ever, finding ways to counteract these threats and make all of us feel at least a bit safer. Until then, we’ve all been warned.
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