There are dozens of cyber threats facing small businesses today, two of the most common of which include denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. During these otherwise common cyber attacks, a hacker will attempt to overwhelm a victim’s network by flooding it with requests. As the victim’s network becomes bogged down with requests, it may suffer from slow speeds, dropped connections or other technical problems.

While DoS and DDoS cyber attacks involve similar methods, though, they aren’t the same. So, what’s the difference between a DoS and DDoS cyber attack?

What Is a DoS Cyber Attack?

A DoS cyber attack is a relatively simple type of attack in which a hacker uses a single Internet Protocol (IP) address and a single device to overwhelm a victim’s network with requests. To better understand how it works, you must first look at the way in which network-connected devices communicate with each other. When connected to a network, devices communicate with each using requests. If you attempt to visit a website from a desktop computer, for instance, your computer will send a request to the website’s service. The server will then respond by sending you the requested data.

During a DoS cyber attack, a hacker will take advantage of this communication mechanism by sending a massive number of requests to your network. As the requests drain your network’s bandwidth and resources, it can cause performance and reliability issues.

What Is a DDoS Cyber Attack?

A DDoS cyber attack is a more complex and comprehensive attack in which a hacker uses multiple IP addresses and devices to overwhelm the victim’s network. Like with DoS cyber attacks, it involves sending a massive number of requests, which in turn bogs down the victim’s network while contributing to performance and reliability issues in the process.

The difference between DoS and DDoS cyber attacks lies in how much IP addresses and devices they use. DoS cyber attacks involve a single IP address and a single device, whereas DDoS cyber attacks involve multiple IP addresses and multiple devices. Some DDoS cyber attacks use tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of IP addresses and devices, each of which is responsible for sending requests to the victim’s network.

There’s been an increase in both DoS and DDoS cyber attacks in recent years. With that said, the latter has become particularly common. According to one report, the number of DDoS cyber attacks is to expected to triple from 2015 to the end of 2020.