New York: 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,
according to a report.
A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that
hosts websites said to be sending spam has escalated into a major
attack on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming
crucial infrastructure around the world, The New York Times
Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in
services like Netflix or could not reach a particular website for
a short time.
For the Internet engineers who run the global network, however,
the problem is more worrisome. The attacks are becoming
increasingly powerful and computer security experts worry that if
they continue to escalate people may not be able to reach basic
Internet services, like e-mail and online banking.
The dispute started when the spam-fighting group, called Spamhaus,
added the Dutch company Cyberbunker to its blacklist, which is
used by e-mail providers to weed out spam. Cyberbunker, named for
its headquarters, a five-storey former NATO bunker, offers hosting
services to any website “except child porn and anything related to
terrorism,” according to its website.
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.
Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at Akamai Networks, a digital
content provider, said Spamhaus’s role was to generate a list of
Of Cyberbunker, he added: “These guys are just mad. To be frank,
they got caught. They think they should be allowed to spam.”
Gilmore said the attacks, which are generated by swarms of
computers called botnets, concentrate data streams that are larger
than the Internet connections of entire countries. He likened the
technique, which uses a long-known flaw in the Internet’s basic
plumbing, to using a machine gun to spray an entire crowd when the
intent is to kill one person.
The attacks were first mentioned publicly last week by CloudFlare,
an Internet security firm in Silicon Valley that was trying to
defend against the attacks and as a result became a target.
The so-called distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks have
reached previously unknown magnitudes, growing to a data stream of
300 billion bits per second.
“It is a real number,” Gilmore said. “It is the largest publicly
announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet.”
Spamhaus, one of the most prominent groups tracking spammers on
the Internet, uses volunteers to identify spammers and has been
described as an online vigilante group.
In the past, blacklisted sites have retaliated against Spamhaus
with denial-of-service attacks, in which they flood Spamhaus with
traffic requests from personal computers until its servers become
unreachable. But in recent weeks, the attackers hit back with a
far more powerful strike that exploited the Internet’s core
infrastructure, called the Domain Name System, or DNS.
That system functions like a telephone switchboard for the
Internet. It translates the names of websites like Facebook.com or
Google.com into a string of numbers that the Internet’s underlying
technology can understand. Millions of computer servers around the
world perform the actual translation.