OVER THE LAST WEEK OR SO the internet apparently survived one of the largest cyber attacks ever attempted, as a web hosting service lashed out at one of the world's biggest spam email blocking services.
The attacks at times ratcheted up from 75Gbit/s to 300Gbit/s and had random impacts on website access and internet streaming services such as Netflix, leading some experts to worry that the effects might potentially escalate to disrupt banking and email services. But that didn't happen.
What apparently happened, based on reports pieced together from the New York Times and other websites, was that the spam tracking network Spamhaus blocked emails from one or more servers hosted by the Dutch hosting service Cyberbunker, which retaliated by triggering waves of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and DNS amplification attacks that targeted over 80 Spamhaus servers located all over the world.
Cyberbunker claims to be what's called a 'bulletproof' hosting site and says it will host anything except child pornography and terrorism related material. It boasts that it has frequently been a target of law enforcement due to its "many controversial customers" and brags that it has seen off "several attempts to enter [its] bunker by force".
Lately, however, five international police forces are reportedly looking into the recent internet attacks, so it might soon see even more attention.
Spamhaus was initially targeted on 15 March according to John Reid, a spokesman for the company. It engaged the services of Cloudflare, which specialises in mitigating DDoS attacks, but subsequently Cloudflare and other organisations that assisted Spamhaus also came under attack. The content distribution network Akamai Networks apparently got involved, as did Google and perhaps other large internet infrastructure firms.
Cyberbunker spokesman Jordan Robson told the Telegraph in an email, "The only thing we would like to say is that we do not, and never have, sent any spam."
However Spamhaus alleged that Cyberbunker was behind the attacks, in cooperation with "criminal gangs" from Eastern Europe and Russia.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an Internet activist who said he was a spokesman for the attackers, said, "We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world had publicly seen." He linked Cyberbunker to the attacks and said it was retaliating against Spamhaus for "abusing their influence".
"Nobody ever deputised Spamhaus to determine what goes and does not go on the Internet. They worked themselves into that position by pretending to fight spam," said Kamphuis.
Whatever, the attacks seem to have subsided now, and the internet - understood as not just a collection of physical resources but also a number of organisations - apparently has survived. µ
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