Hack Hack Hack Hack It Apart

Why Your Internet Has Been Slow: Spam Dispute Sparks One of the Largest DDoS Attacks in Internet History

Battle of the botnets.
(Photo: Metanoodle)

(Photo: Metanoodle)

Notice that your Internet’s been a little slow lately? A cyber fight between an anti-spam group and a Dutch Internet company has spiraled so far out of control that it’s threatening the infrastructure of the Internet and clogging connectivity for everyday web users, including those–gasp–trying to access Netflix.

The New York Times reports that when the international spam tracking group Spamhaus added hosting company CyberBunker to its blacklist for allegedly disseminating tons of spam, CyberBunker retaliated by launching the largest DDoS attack in the history of the web (that the public knows about, that is). The scale of the attack is so massive that it’s “causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world.” So that’s why that episode of Arrested Development wouldn’t load.

CyberBunker is a Dutch hosting company that operates out of a former NATO bunker, and hosts any website “except child porn and anything related to terrorism,” including BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay. Spamhaus claims that CyberBunker also allows massive spam networks to operate; this accusation set off the cyberattacks, which the Times warns could escalate to the point where people are unable to use normal web services like email and online banking.

When Spamhaus contacted security firm Cloudflare for help, they too became the target of attacks by the massive botnets reportedly controlled by CyberBunker. Writes The Times:

“These things are essentially like nuclear bombs,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare. “It’s so easy to cause so much damage.”

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,” Mr. Gilmore said. “It is the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet.”

An Internet activist speaking on behalf of CyberBunker said the attacks are due to Spamhaus abusing their power, using spam as a cover to take down websites they simply don’t agree with. “Nobody ever deputized Spamhaus to determine what goes and does not go on the Internet,” he told The Times. “They worked themselves into that position by pretending to fight spam.”

To be fair, if you’re trying to prove you don’t support big spam operations, it’s probably not the best idea to spam the entire Internet using your powerful botnet army.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com