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article image'Biggest cyber-attack in history' causes global Internet slowdown

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 27, 2013 in Technology
The biggest cyber-attack in history is taking place now. A London and Geneva-based non-profit Internet watchdog group Spamhaus has been hit by a massive cyber-attack whose ripples are spreading on the Web worldwide.
Spamhaus is one of the major groups tracking spammers and helping email providers filter out spam and other unwanted content by maintaining a constantly updated blacklist of servers known to be used for sending spam on the Internet. The group uses volunteers operating as an online vigilante group to identify spammers.
According to The New York Times, a row between the group and a Dutch web hosting company Cyberbunker, accused of sending spam, has blown up into what is being described as the "biggest cyber-attack in Internet history. "
AP reports that Spamhaus said on Wednesday that it has been the target of a massive denial-of-service attack that began on March 19. The group says the attack is being carried out by groups retaliating after Spamhaus blacklisted them as sources of spam.
According to The New York Times, the dispute arose when Spamhaus included Cyberbunker in its blacklist and blocked servers maintained by the firm.
According to its website, Cyberbunker, named after its HQ, a five-story former NATO bunker, will offer hosting services to any website "except child porn and anything related to terrorism." Cyberbunker also boasts that it "offers dedicated server hosting that allow clients to stay online, no matter what," BBC reports.
When Spamhaus asked CloudFlare, an Internet security firm, for assistance, the cyber-attackers began to target companies that provide data connections for both Spamhaus and CloudFlare, The New York Times reports.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an Internet activist who claims to represent the attackers, said in an online message: "We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world has publicly seen.” Kamphuis confirmed said Cyberbunker was retaliating against Spamhaus for "abusing their influence." According to the BBC, he said that Spamhaus could not be allowed to decide "what goes and does not go on the internet."
However, Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies, a digital content provider, said Spamhaus’s legitimate role was to maintain a list of Internet spammers. He said: "These guys are just mad. To be frank, they got caught. They think they should be allowed to spam."
Spamhaus accused Cyberbunker of working with "criminal gangs" from Eastern Europe and Russia to launch the attack.
The BBC reports that Steve Linford, the chief executive for Spamhaus, said the scale of the attack was unprecedented. He said: "We've been under this cyber-attack for well over a week."
AP reports Spamhaus researcher Vincent Hanna said in an interview: "It is a small miracle that we're still online."
According to Spamhaus, the attackers are using a method known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack in which target servers are subjected to overwhelming traffic. According to AP, the San Francisco-based CloudFlare Inc. said in a blog post that the attackers were exploiting a weaknesses in the Internet's infrastructure to induce distributed servers to rout billions of junk traffic to Spamhaus.
Matthew Prince, chief executive of CloudFlare, said: "These things are essentially like nuclear bombs. It’s so easy to cause so much damage."
The BBC reports that Linford said the attack was so massive that it could take down government internet infrastructure easily. He said: "If you aimed this at Downing Street they would be down instantly. They would be completely off the internet." He added that the attacks were "peaking at 300 gb/s (gigabits per second). Normally when there are attacks against major banks, we're talking about 50 gb/s."
Reports say that the traffic to the popular Netflix site has been affected by the attack.
Gilmore said since the attack began Internet service providers have reported that their services were affected. The New York Times reports he said: "It is the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet."
The BBC reports Spamhaus said it has managed to cope with the massive onslaught because it has a highly distributed infrastructure in several countries. Spamhaus is supported by many big Internet companies who rely on the group's services to filter spam and other unwanted content.
According to Linford, major Internet companies such as Google are helping Spamhaus absorb the traffic generated by the DDos attack.
Linford said: "They are targeting every part of the internet infrastructure that they feel can be brought down." He added: "We can't be brought down. Spamhaus has more than 80 servers around the world. We've built the biggest DNS server around."
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