We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a DoS Attack?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A DoS attack is a form of malicious action typically taken against a computer system such as a server or webpage host. This type of attack can also be used against smaller systems such as the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer, though this is fairly unusual. The attack is meant to make the server become unavailable for use by legitimate users. A DoS attack can take a number of different forms, though in general it is intended to either overwhelm a system through flooding or crash the system.

The target of a DoS attack, which stands for “denial of service” and should not be confused with a disk operating system or DOS, is usually a major server that hosts a website or similar service. “Denial of service” means that the system is attacked in some way that ultimately results in the system no longer being able to respond to legitimate customers or users of the service. Service is therefore denied to individuals trying to navigate to the website or log onto a server that has been targeted.

A DoS attack can take a number of different forms, though it is usually meant to achieve one of two end results: server flooding or server crashing. Flooding is achieved by causing a server to attempt to respond to an excessive number of users simultaneously, often by using a program to “spoof” multiple non-existent users, which uses the system’s resources and causes it to become non-responsive. Server crashing is typically achieved through a malicious piece of software that uses a flaw or weakness in the server programming to cause the server to crash and be inaccessible until restarted.

One of the reasons a DoS attack can be so disruptive is because this type of attack can be relatively easy to launch and may continue for days or weeks. A DoS attack can also be launched as a more “permanent” attack that seeks to bring a server down for the long term. This is usually done by gaining access to the firmware in a server and “flashing” the server with new firmware that is corrupted or malicious, bringing the server down until the system is repaired or replaced.

A DoS attack can also be inadvertent and still achieve similar results. When a webpage or server is overwhelmed by legitimate user requests, such as when a popular website links to a smaller page on a server that cannot handle the user capacity of the larger server, then the server can become flooded or crash. While this is not necessarily an “attack,” it is often seen as similarly disruptive and can be an unfortunate consequence of a small website that becomes quite suddenly popular.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.