When most people think of cyber attacks, they envision malware. Malware is often used in cyber attacks. If your computer is infected with a piece of malware, it may create a backdoor that provides a hacker with access to your computer and its data. There are other types of cyber attacks, however, that don’t use malware, including ping flood attacks. What is a ping flood attack exactly, and how does it work?

The Basics of a Ping Flood Attack

A ping flood attack is a type of cyber attack that involves spamming or flooding a victim with Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) packets. It’s also known as an ICMP denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. During a ping flood attack, the perpetrator will send an excessive number of ICMP packets to your network. Depending on the volume of these ICMP packets, it may overwhelm your network.

Ping flood attacks can cause the following problems:

  • Slow internet connection
  • Consumption of bandwidth
  • Complete network outage
  • Loss of network connection between two or more computers

How Ping Flood Attacks Work

Networks — as well as the devices on networks — communicate with each other by sending and receiving packets of data. An outside network may send your own network an ICMP echo request packet to ping it. Your network will have to process and respond to this packet with its own ICMP echo reply packet.

Under normal circumstances, your network should be able to handle ICMP echo request packets. Problems, however, can occur when an excessive number of ICMP echo request packets are sent to your network. A ping flood attack can overwhelm your network with these packets. For each ICMP echo request packet your network receives, it will have to generate and send back an ICMP reply packet.

Tips to Protect Against Ping Flood Attacks

You can protect against ping flood attacks by using a firewall. A firewall is a digital shield that filters malicious or otherwise harmful traffic. Assuming you can configure it properly, it will automatically reject ICMP echo request packets during a ping flood attack.

Another safeguard to protect against ping flood attacks is Internal Protocol (IP) address concealment. For the perpetrator to carry out a ping flood attack against your network, he or she must know its IP address. Ping flood attacks target networks based on their IP address. By concealing your network’s IP address, you’ll be better protected against ping flood attacks.

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