Millions of Internet users around the world are experiencing slow connection due to "the biggest ever cyber-attack in history." The assault, which now threatens to rock the Internet to its core, came after a European spam-fighting group went after a Dutch web hosting service used by spammers.
The attack appears to be in retaliation to the move by The SpamHaus Project, a spam filtering organization based in both London and Geneva, to blacklist servers run by CyberBunker, a Dutch web hosting service that offers to host any content "except child porn and anything related to terrorism."
The distributed denial of service attacks, an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, are now peaking at a reported 300 gigabits per second of data, about one-sixth of the actual functioning capacity of one of the major transatlantic cables, TAT-14, according to wired.co.uk.
The first attack reportedly took place on March 18.
According to CloudFlare, a company that provides protection and acceleration of any website, the attack was sufficiently large to fully saturate the connection of its client, SpamHaus, to the rest of the Internet and knock their site offline.
"These very large attacks, which are known as Layer 3 attacks, are difficult to stop with any on-premise solution," says a blog on CloudFlare's website. "Put simply: if you have a router with a 10Gbps port, and someone sends you 11Gbps of traffic, it doesn't matter what intelligent software you have to stop the attack because your network link is completely saturated."
"It certainly is the biggest attack ever directed at SpamHaus," the spam-fighting group says on its website. "Many organizations are not open about the fact that they are attacked at all, let alone about techniques or traffic volumes used in the attack. SpamHaus understands their business and security concerns. However, we feel it is in the best interest of the Internet as a whole to openly discuss the DDoS cyberthreat and ways to resolve it."
Core Internet infrastructure may be overwhelmed by the amount of traffic involved in an attack, SpamHaus adds. "When that happens, all traffic that passes through that part of the Internet is impacted. Compare it to a big highway: If a traffic jam gets big enough, the on-ramps will slow down and fill up, and then the roads to the on-ramps will fill up too. Attacks can be directed at core infrastructure precisely to inflict such collateral damage. With this attack, some collateral damage may have been seen locally, all depending on where you connect to the internet and when you look."
CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince wrote a blog post saying it is not known who is behind this attack, but Spamhaus has made plenty of enemies over the years. "Spammers aren't always the most lovable of individuals and SpamHaus has been threatened, sued, and DDoSed regularly."
"This here is the internet community puking out SpamHaus," CyberBunker founder Sven Olaf Kamphuis told CNN. "We've had it with the guys ... What we see right here is the internet puking out a cancer."
Kamphuis added that the owners of various websites got together on a Skype chat and hatched the plans for the attack. He said that StopHaus, a group organized to support CyberBunker in the dispute, ceased the attack after three days but that other hackers and activists kept it up after that.
"A number of people have claimed to be involved in these attacks," SpamHaus has said. "At this moment it is not possible for us to say whether they are really involved."