IP stresser and DDoS attacks – Understanding the connection

IP stresser tools have become a major threat, allowing relatively unsophisticated attackers to take down websites and online services through massive traffic flooding. An IP stresser is a tool that allows users to overload targets with junk traffic, typically for a fee. They are also called booters or DDoS-for-hire services. These tools make it simple for anyone to pay to direct a flood of malicious traffic at infrastructure to disrupt connectivity.

IP stressers work by having access to an army of compromised devices, known as botnets. The operator commands the botnet to bombard targets with packets from all directions. This overwhelms networks and servers through brute force, taking them offline. Stressers require minimal technical skills. Users simply enter the target IP address or domain name, select an attack type, duration, and power level, and then click start. Botnets ranging from tens of thousands to millions of devices do the dirty work.

Common IP stresser attack types

IP stressers enable various forms of DDoS flooding, including:

  • Volumetric attacks – Flood infrastructure with huge amounts of junk traffic that consumes all available bandwidth.
  • Protocol attacks – Abuse weaknesses in protocols like SYN, UDP, or ICMP to overwhelm devices with requests they can’t handle.
  • Application attacks – Target web application layers with malformed requests that crash servers.
  • Distributed attacks – Leverage botnets across wide geographic areas and IP ranges to make attacks harder to block.

These simple point-and-click tools put dangerous DDoS capabilities into the hands of unskilled users for as little as $10 per attack.

DDoS connection

IP stressers are directly linked to DDoS – distributed denial of service – attacks. DDoS tactics aim to make online services unavailable by exhausting resources on networks and servers. While DDoS has existed for decades, IP stressers magnify the havoc by allowing easy access. Some key connections between IP stressers and DDoS attacks include:

  • Enabling distributed assaults – IP stressers control large botnets comprising thousands of compromised devices across distant regions, critical for effectively carrying out distributed DDoS campaigns.
  • Simplifying complex attacks – Stressers shrink the skillset needed to craft malicious packets and coordinate multi-vector assaults into simple point-and-click tools anyone can use.
  • Commercializing attacks – Booters have gamified DDoS, letting non-technical users rent these services through slick web interfaces and cheap subscriptions.
  • Empowering criminals – Criminals often leverage booters for extortion, disruption, and mischief with minimal effort, know-how, or chance of getting caught.
  • Increasing attack size – Today’s booting services can harness botnets generating 100-500 Gbps attacks and beyond, creating outsized damage.

So, while DDoS tactics have existed for a long while, illegitimate use of IP stressers has drastically amplified the scope and accessibility of these network-crashing attacks.

Protocol attacks

These target inherent weaknesses in network communication protocols themselves:

  1. SYN floods – Sends succession of TCP SYN requests without completing connections. Targets soon are overwhelmed with bogus half-open connections.
  2. ACK floods – Forged spoofed ACK requests confuse systems into thinking connections are already established, leading to failed connections.
  3. Fragmented packet attacks – Sends a flood of malformed minuscule packet fragments to overwhelm network stacks.
  4. DNS amplification – Spoofed DNS requests bounce between DNS servers, each multiplying response size.

Protocol attacks don’t require as much bandwidth, but exploit inherent protocol design flaws. IP stressers weaponize these easily.