It’s easy to envision a hack as one malicious stranger slipping in the back door of a website to steal private information. But what about when the attack is really a floodgate of requests coming from many different sources? Unfortunately, Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are just that—and they’re becoming more frequent.

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When it comes to DDoS attacks in ecommerce, what’s at stake? To start, these “traffic jams” can cause major downtime for online stores. Keep reading to learn more about the ins and outs of DDoS attacks and how they intersect with the ecommerce sector.

DDoS Attacks: The Basics

During a DDoS attack, hackers use a botnet to gain control of hundreds or thousands of computer systems, which they then use to flood a website with so many simultaneous requests it crashes or become inaccessible due to overload. As Wired writes, the end goal is “preventing legitimate users from accessing a system or site.” To put it plainly, DDoS attacks knock perfectly healthy websites offline by overwhelming them.

While DDoS attacks primarily damage the user experience, they can also be a smokescreen for an even worse attack involving the compromise of customer records or criminals demanding ransom for regained control. The reasoning for these cyber hacks can be political, personal, commercial or even all of the above.

A DDoS Case Study

U.S. residents living on the East Coast may remember waking up one morning in October of 2016 and going to check their favorite websites, only to find they were denied access. It turns out a DDoS attack on the internet management company Dyn shut down popular websites like Spotify, Etsy, Twitter, Netflix and more. The junk traffic courtesy of the parties behind the DDoS attack was powerful enough to cause a widespread outage that lasted for hours.

How to Respond to an Attack

Knowing cyber-attacks of all kinds are becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s prudent for your internet-based business to have a plan in case you’re hacked. When it comes to DDoS attacks, hosting your store on a scalable enterprise ecommerce platform is a great first step toward accommodating sudden fluctuations in traffic.

If attacked, your absolute highest priority must be getting your web store back online. A smart incident response plan is crucial to your success in this regard. When you use cloud-based software from a major provider like Shopify, you’ll have 24/7 live support for assistance. If you operate your own servers, you’ll have to troubleshoot the issue on your own. According to Practical Ecommerce, “Merchants hosting sites in-house have to take full responsibility for dealing with potential attacks.” This involves prior planning, having the right IT staff on hand and purchasing specific DDoS defense tools.

Ecommerce Downtime Is Costly

A DDoS attack is the physical equivalent of a third party closing and locking the doors to your shop against your will. You’ll lose money every moment customers are barred from your online store. Even worse, shoppers tend to remember poor service experiences and may be hesitant to return later. They may even go straight to one of your competitors. Shoppers are unaware of what’s happening behind the scenes, all they know is your site is down or running very slowly, so they bounce.

Employing a flexible platform will help you handle traffic spikes in stride. Having a plan in place to deal with attacks positions your store recover quickly. After all, customer confidence and conversions are at stake when it comes to DDoS attacks in ecommerce.

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