When DoS Attacks Strike: An Unexpected Day Of Cybersecurity

Amber Dawson | October 7th, 2021

A client of ours recently fell victim to a targeted DDoS attack. Our system, which was monitoring their ads with our cutting-edge click fraud protection software, picked up on this. This meant we were able to reach out to them within seconds of it happening.

What is DoS?

A DoS attack stands for Denial Of Service. Motivated by malicious intentions, an attacker floods the server with fraudulent traffic to overwhelm the system and make the site unavailable. 

You also get Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS); this is where the attack comes from multiple sources, some of which are legitimate, making them even more difficult to deal with. Cybersecurity companies face the complex task of determining what traffic should and shouldn’t be let through against the clock and so charge a lot of money for their services. 

A DoS attack aims to bring down a website, stop it from serving the needs of its customers, and ultimately cost a business money. However, DoS attacks have a significant impact on your online advertising too. Whether the attack comes directly to the website or through your ads, the impact on your PPC campaigns lasts a lot longer than the heartache of waiting for your site to be live again.

How DoS Attacks Impact PPC Advertising

A DoS attack typically falls into two categories:

  1. A direct website attack 
  2. An attack that comes through your ads via spoofed requests

The latter is difficult to achieve because of the solid DDoS security Google has in place. The fact that this attack was triggering the client’s ads was unusual, but due to our technology, we could identify what was happening and notify them within a matter of minutes. 

Whichever angle the attack comes from, your ads get affected. If your website goes down, your ads aren’t pointing towards anything; if you deliver poor service, Google will penalize you. So, not only are you losing potential customers, SERP rankings, and ad budget, but your analytics will be useless.

This client saw over 300,000 clicks per minute: you don’t have to get your calculator out to know the cost of damage caused would be eye-wateringly high. 

We’ve Got Your Back

This unexpected attack came right out of the blue. However, our technology was there to catch it and automatically monitor what was going on. While we’re not a cybersecurity company, we do take inspiration from it’s core principles. This means that we could investigate the cause quickly and immediately inform the site owner. 

Sometimes ad traffic fluctuates due to a genuine increase in demand, and this is something our platform is set up to account for automatically. Your protection will remain in place, and we’ll get in touch if we feel you need to swap to a different plan to accommodate your new traffic levels. However, in this case the traffic levels went way above what we would consider normal, so we knew something was amiss and were able to react quickly.

PPC Protect is not explicitly built to detect in-progress DoS attacks, but our systems proved that they could handle it. We hope this never happens to you, but be assured that our software will pick up on it if it does. As a company, we strive to do the best for your business wherever we can; if our technology detects anything remotely suspicious, we’ll alert you immediately. 

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