Back in 2016, we published a helpful primer on protecting yourself as a streamer. Digital technology and the Internet moves quickly, so we at StreamerSquare felt it was time to really dig into online security topics.
You are your only advocate for your personal safety on the internet. This can’t be stressed enough.
As world events have shown, law enforcement is still lacking in tools and resources to safeguard us online. Many of the most common problems you face as a streamer won’t even hit law enforcement radar until it’s too late. Unfortunately, that means you have to be victimized before they’ll help.
So welcome to the first in a series of articles digging into the subject of online safety for streamers. In this particular article, we’ll discuss DDoS and DoS attacks, along with IP address safety.
DDoS Attack (Distributed Denial of Service) and DoS (Denial of Service)
When discussing online threats, DDoS and DOS attacks have taken on a talismanic quality symbolizing “Hackers”. It’s a terrifying thought, really. That any random person on the internet could knock your stream offline with the click of a button and some Mountain Dew.
A DDoS is an attack on your IP address from multiple sources all at the same time. A DoS attack is the same, except from a single source rather than multiple ones. Therefore, DDoS attacks tend to have a much more noticeable impact.
During these attacks, data is sent to your IP address in an attempt to overwhelm your connection. Depending on the amount of data being sent, this can result in anything from mild lag to your internet going out.
The chances of you being the target of a full scale DDoS attack that knocks your internet connection out is almost none. They require access to a network of infected computers, something most people don’t have. While it is possible to “rent” time from a DDoS botnet, the cost is prohibitive for most. Not to mention the illegalities of it.
People generally aren’t going to spend a ton of money illegally to inconvenience you. Criminal organizations aren’t going to waste a campaign taking down a lone IP address of a streamer, either.
Let’s face it… they’re just not that into you. 🙁
Much smaller DoS attacks can be done by a single person on their computer with some software. But they are generally less effective since it’s difficult for one computer to send enough data to overwhelm your download bandwidth.
Also, security patches for operating systems, router configurations, firewalls and intrusion detection systems can be used to protect against denial of service attacks.
You’re most at risk of a DoS impacting you if:
- Your operating system of your computer isn’t updated regularly.
- Your modem or router is more than 5 years old.
- You have a very low bandwidth for your internet connection.
That being said, there’s really only one thing you can do to minimize your exposure to an attack as a streamer:
Protect Your IP Address
Your IP address cannot be traced to your house… let’s just get that out of the way. At best, someone can use your IP address to find the general area of the state or province you live in, maybe even your city. That’s it. Only law enforcement can get your specific house address from your IP, and only THEN after a subpoena to your ISP.
So if you’ve ever heard some kid bragging about getting someone’s IP to send them pizzas or “Swatting” them, they’re flat out lying. Residential IP addresses don’t work that way, and never have.
Still, it goes without saying that you should never give this information out. Even if an IP address can’t lead someone to your front door, it can be used as one piece of the puzzle to find you.
How Does Someone Get My IP?
Like it or not, your IP address is already laying around everywhere. The key is to be careful of where you leave it.
A viewer can’t get your IP address from watching your streams, so don’t worry about that. Discord also appears to be safe, provided you don’t click on any strange links. Discord claims you can’t be traced, but as always, there are people who claim otherwise without proof.
For what it’s worth, Discord has done a pretty solid job of making sure all text and calls go through their servers instead of a peer to peer connection.
But there are some overlooked places where people can glean your IP fairly easily:
- Old voice chat programs like Skype, Ventrillo and Mumble.
- Posting on forums and blogs with admins and mods who do shady things.
- Using someone’s private FTP server to share files with.
- Beta and early release game downloads from indie developers.
- In game voice chats may or may not leak your IP to others, depending on the game.
You can use a VPN to safeguard your IP address in all of the cases listed above. While a VPN won’t help if you are currently under attack, they will help you keep your IP from becoming a target in the first place.
If you are interested in getting a VPN, we’ve included a couple links to the most popular services in 2019.
These two are reasonably priced, easy to implement, and have a great record of security. Stay away from “free” VPN services though, they tend to be very slow and only marginally more secure than going without.
Something else to watch out for is getting tech help from people you’ve met in chat. Not to say you shouldn’t take advice or tips from people, but you should be extremely cautious about allowing people access to your network or network information to help.
A good rule of thumb is, “Would you feel comfortable telling this person where you live?” If the answer is no, then you probably don’t have enough trust with them to give access to your network configuration.
Are You Under Attack?
It’s been a popular meme in competitive gaming to claim you’ve been DDoS’ed because of some lag or other network error. This is partially responsible for creating the boogie man that these attacks are.
The vast majority of internet problems on a residential IP address are related to either your ISP, or hardware/software issues. We’re not saying it doesn’t happen at all, but it should be the last in line of suspects if you find yourself with internet troubles.
For most residential internet users, the only way to detect a DoS or DDoS is to examine your router logs. Most modern routers can detect DoS and DDoS attacks by the very essence of what these attacks are. Be wary of false positives though, these routers frequently identify legitimate connections from outside services like Amazon as one.
Remember, DDoS attacks generally target websites and businesses where they can make the most impact. Someone spent money for that attack, and they want something they can brag about online. DoS attacks are rarely capable of impacting your stream unless you have a specific weakness.
Yep, I Think I’m Under Attack!
If you do find yourself the victim of repeated attacks, there’s really only a couple things you can do.
Call your ISP and request a new Dynamic IP. Explain the situation to them and they should, hopefully, give you a hand. If you change your IP, then the attacker doesn’t have a valid target anymore.
Once you have your new IP, keep track of what you do on the internet for a little while. If the attacks start up again, you can narrow down where the attacker is getting your IP address from.
Aside from asking your ISP to change your IP address, waiting it out is about all you can do. Eventually whoever is doing it will get bored and move on.
It’s not a comforting ending to this discussion, but it’s the realistic one.