The rise of DDoS attacks in online gaming

From World of Warcraft to DOTA 2, online gaming has well and truly exploded thanks to games consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Connected devices have also played a significant role in fuelling this trend and widening the demographic, with consumers increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to immerse themselves in a world of online gaming. In fact, the world of online gaming has become such a phenomenon that there are even events dedicated to this thriving industry. Last week Gamescom, the world’s biggest gaming event, is taking place, and will see gamers from around the world come together to play the latest games and see the newest trends set to hit the industry.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Not a week goes by with no reports of DDoS attacks hitting the online gaming industry” hashtags=”gaming, tech, security”]

But just like every other online industry, the rise in cyber-attacks has affected online gaming. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources, are an incredibly popular way to disrupt online games. Not a week goes by where there isn’t reports of DDoS attacks hitting the online gaming industry – with Pokémon Go the latest victim.

The impact of DDoS attacks

For online gaming sites, DDoS attacks are more than a mere inconvenience – they can have massive and detrimental effects on revenues and customer loyalty. According to research from Cisco, last year, the number of DDoS attacks globally grew by 25 percent. In terms of gaming, DDoS attacks account for more than 5 percent of all monthly gaming-related traffic, and more than 30 percent of gaming traffic while these attacks are occurring.

[easy-tweet tweet=”More than 30 percent of gaming traffic while DDoS attacks are occurring.” hashtags=”cloud, tech, DDoS”]

According to research by Ponemon Institute, DDoS attacks on a gaming site can cause revenue loss from $40K per hour to as much as $1.5 million in a year. Organisations that fall victim to a DDoS attack typically suffer damage in multiple ways: deteriorating customer trust, lost revenue, negative brand impact, or slowed web innovation and expansion.

Online gaming sites therefore have two priorities: ensure they are protected against security attacks while also delivering outstanding user experience – a difficult balance. So how do online gaming websites ensure that they maintain their users’ loyalty as well as protect their revenues?

The unlikely saviour

Ultimately, there is no way to stop a DDoS attack before it happens – but online gaming sites can mitigate the effects of an attack. While DDoS prevention appliances can help, a single appliance can cost over $50,000 – and can’t always guarantee safety from the average DDoS attack. There is also the option of establishing additional data centres to fend off DDoS attacks. But again, the cost of this is high – and it also makes little sense to establish additional data centres just to deal with DDoS attacks. So many online gaming sites turn to cloud solutions.

While it may not seem like an obvious choice, a content delivery network (CDN) with DDoS absorption capabilities can help to fight off DDoS attacks. Why? Because a CDN offers more than just DDoS protection – it provides additional capabilities that are very valuable for gaming websites. By bringing gaming content closer to gamers wherever they are in the world, a CDN can reduce the number of download failures and server crashes, ensuring a seamless experience for every gamer.

A CDN with a cloud-based infrastructure can also help with spikes in player numbers. Because player numbers can be unpredictable, huge spikes in demand can impact on performance – meaning a gaming website becomes a victim of its own success. A CDN can balance these increases in demand in real-time, meaning performance, availability and efficiency are not compromised.

The importance of DDoS protection

But it is important to note that not every CDN is equipped to protect against DDoS attacks. In fact, some CDNs have claimed to offer DDoS protection when in reality, they have relied on their infrastructure to scale and increase the capacity of game servers with points of presence (PoPs) located around the world. It is these PoPs that allow some DDoS attacks to be absorbed without blocking access to web content and applications.

However, this alone will not do the job, and a CDN that relies solely on sheer bandwidth to absorb DDoS attacks won’t help you. You need a CDN that comes with specialised DDoS expertise, which can intelligently identify malicious traffic and go beyond http/https attacks.

The game goes on

For online gaming sites, reliable, fast and secure connections are critical because gamers expect no less than quick, responsive and secure game-play. Ultimately, gaming sites need to be able to perform at their absolute best in order to generate revenues and keep gamers coming back for more – and that means fending off attacks. A CDN might offer you the right protection while improving your web performance but ultimately, you need a CDN with the right kind of DDoS protection to keep a state of play.