A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers. A DDoS attack uses more than one unique IP address or machines, often from thousands of hosts infected with malware. A distributed denial of service attack typically involves more than around 3–5 nodes on different networks; fewer nodes may qualify as a DoS attack but is not a DDoS attack.
Multiple machines can generate more attack traffic than one machine, multiple attack machines are harder to turn off than one attack machine, and that the behavior of each attack machine can be stealthier, making it harder to track and shut down. Since the incoming traffic flooding the victim originates from different sources, it may be impossible to stop the attack simply by using ingress filtering. It also makes it difficult to distinguish legitimate user traffic from attack traffic when spread across multiple points of origin. As an alternative or augmentation of a DDoS, attacks may involve forging of IP sender addresses (IP address spoofing) further complicating identifying and defeating the attack. These attacker advantages cause challenges for defense mechanisms. For example, merely purchasing more incoming bandwidth than the current volume of the attack might not help, because the attacker might be able to simply add more attack machines.
The scale of DDoS attacks has continued to rise over recent years, by 2016 exceeding a terabit per second. Some common examples of DDoS attacks are UDP flooding, SYN flooding and DNS amplification.