Biggest cyber attack in history slows internet around the globe
INTERNET users have been drawn into a row between two online businesses that has slowed internet speeds around the world.
The global web problems came after a Dutch web-hosting company took umbrage at being dubbed a source of spam email, and retaliated by launching what has been called the world's largest web attack.
Last night, internet users found web browsing was taking longer than usual. In many cases it was impossible to watch online movies. Users of intensive applications such Netflix are thought to have been particularly badly affected.
The interruptions came after Spamhaus, a not-for-profit spam-fighting group based in Geneva, temporarily added the Dutch firm, CyberBunker, to a blacklist that is used by e-mail providers to weed out spam.
CyberBunker is housed in a five-storey former NATO bunker and famously offers its services to any website "except child porn and anything related to terrorism". It has often been linked to behaviour that anti-spam blacklist compilers have condemned.
Its response was to mount a huge 'denial of service attack'. This works by trying to make a network unavailable to its intended users, overloading a server with co-ordinated requests to access it.
The attack was particularly potent because it exploited the 'domain name system', which acts like the telephone directory of the internet and is used every time a web address is entered into a computer.
Raj Samani, of security firm McAfee, said: "While denial of service attacks are not new, we are currently seeing an increase in both volume and sophistication of these types of attacks stemming from all parts of the world. Security will need to evolve so that there is more co-operation between businesses, governments and individuals to ensure attacks like these are minimised," he added.
Irish internet users were thought to have escaped the problems. Colm Murphy, director of the Irish cyber security firm Espion, said the attack was "the largest one ever reported."
However, because Ireland is not on the same system as the rest of mainland Europe, it's unlikely that users here would be affected unless they were accessing websites in mainland Europe, such as booking online flights with a European airline outside of Ireland, he said.
Patrick Gilmore, of digital content provider Akamai Networks told 'The New York Times' that the attackers did not believe spamming users was wrong.
"These guys are just mad. To be frank, they got caught," he alleged. "They think they should be allowed to spam."
"The only thing we would like to say is that we do not, and never have, sent any spam," Cyberbunker spokesman Jordan Robson said.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an internet activist who said he was a spokesman for the attackers, said that Cyberbunker was retaliating against Spamhaus for "abusing their influence" as the gatekeeper of spammer lists. (© Daily Telegraph, London)