Global Internet Slows After ‘Biggest Cyberattack in History’

A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world.

The attack is of a type called “distributed denial of service (DDOS),” which has been used before — but never on this scale. Photo: Terra Nova/Flickr

The internet around the world has been slowed down in what security experts are describing as the biggest cyber-attack of its kind in history.

Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in services like Netflix or could not reach a particular Web site for a short time.

A cyber-attack originally targeting a single company is now being described by experts as one of the biggest Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in Internet history.

The assault, which recently began impacting elements of the Internet’s physical infrastructure, has been dragging down Internet speeds in Europe.

A row between a spam-fighting group and hosting firm has sparked retaliation attacks affecting the wider internet.

The attacks were focused on a company called Spamhaus, which maintains a “domain name system” to connect a typed-in URL to the correct server hosting the appropriate content.

With this company’s services compromised, large portions of the web became less stable.

Cyberbunker, a Dutch Internet hosting site based in Europe, is suspected to be behind the online crisis, which has drastically slowed Internet speeds worldwide — even preventing users from reaching websites altogether.

Recently, Spamhaus blocked servers maintained by Cyberbunker, a Dutch web host that states it will host anything with the exception of child pornography or terrorism-related material, writes the BBC  News.

Now Spamhaus is alleging that Cyberbunker is collaborating with a Russian and Eastern European criminal organizations to facilitate the attacks.

A spokesman for Spamhaus, which is based in Europe, said the attacks began on March 19, but had not stopped the group from distributing its blacklist.

Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who claims to be a spokesman for Cyberbunker, said, in a message, that Spamhaus was abusing its position, and should not be allowed to decide “what goes and does not go on the internet”.

Spamhaus contracted with security firm CloudFlare to help mitigate the attacks soon after they began. CloudFlare has been defending Spamhaus by spreading the attacks across multiple data centers, a technique that can keep a website online even if it’s hit by the maximum amount of traffic a typical DDoS can generate.

“Usually these DDoS attacks have kind of a natural cap in their size, which is around 100 gigabits per second,” CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told Mashable before explaining the limitation in typical DDoS attack size is due to routing hardware limitations.

Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at Akamai Technologies, a digital content provider, said Spamhaus’s role was to generate a list of Internet spammers.

Of Cyberbunker, he added: “These guys are just mad. To be frank, they got caught. They think they should be allowed to spam.”

DDOS attacks flood targeted websites with extraordinary amounts of “dummy” traffic. The high amount of traffic makes the site unreachable by internet users actually trying to use it, reports the NY Times.

The strength of these particular DDOS attacks is unprecedented, experts say. While prior efforts targeting major banks have been executed with a magnitude of about 50 billion bits per second, the current attacks use a data stream of 300 billion bits per second.

Now the attacks are being investigated by five national cyber-police-forces.

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