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UPDATED An online row over spam between two European IT companies has inadvertently caused millions of Internet users' connections around the world to slow or grind to a halt altogether in what is being called the biggest Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyberattack in history.
According to separate reports from the New York Times and the BBC, the cyberattack was an apparent retaliatory move against spam-fighting volunteer group Spamhaus' blacklisting of servers run by Cyberbunker, a Dutch web hosting service. Attack 'not orchestrated' by Cyberbunker Internet activist Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who claims to be the hackers' spokesperson, posted a statement on Facebook from online freedom advocacy "The STOPHaus Project" that categorically denied Cyberbunker's involvement in the attacks. "We want to be abolutely clear that the DDoS attacks are not and have not ever been orchestrated within CyberBunker, nor are they conducted under the supervision of Sven (Kamphuis) or his constituants (sic). He is a press contact for the group, an activist in the web community, and a freedom fighter for net neutrality. Spamhaus has always combat net neutrality and we all take an interest in internet liberty," the statement read.
Millions of Internet users affected
The DDoS attack has reportedly affected millions of online users around the world, shaking the Internet practically to its roots by hitting at its core infrastructure: the Domain Name System (DNS).
"A typical (DDoS) attack tends to affect only a small number of networks. But in the case of a (DNS) flood attack, data packets are aimed at the victim from servers all over the world. Such attacks cannot easily be stopped, experts say, because those servers cannot be shut off without halting the Internet," said the New York Times.
Spamhaus chief executive Steve Linford told the BBC that the scale of the attacks was "unprecedented" but has not crippled the group's operations, even as five separate "national cyber-police-forces (from) around the world" are currently investigating the hackers.
Linford said that the attacks were strong enough to disable government infrastructure, reaching an unprecedented data rate of 300 Gbps. "Normally, when there are attacks against major banks, we're talking about (just) 50 Gbps," he explained.
"The attacks in recent days have been as many as five times larger than what was seen recently in attacks against major American banks," added the New York Times.
But Linford declined to divulge further details of the ongoing investigations, as he feared that revealing the identities of involved agencies may lead to retaliation from the hackers.
One such victim of retaliation was CloudFlare, the Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity firm which was called in to help mitigate the effects of the attacks and which first broke news of them about a week ago.
“(This) is the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet," CloudFlare chief executive Matthew Prince was quoted as saying.
Spamhaus: an online vigilante group?
However, not everyone thinks that Spamhaus is an innocent victim of unwarranted attacks.
"Nobody ever deputized Spamhaus to determine what goes and does not go on the Internet. (Spamhaus) worked themselves into that position by pretending to fight spam," Kamphuis said.
He criticized Spamhaus for "abusing their influence."
"(Spamhaus) has been described as an online vigilante group," the New York Times added. — DVM, GMA News