The anti-spam organization Spamhaus was
hit Wednesday by an internet attack so large that it affected regular
data traffic mainly in Europe but also around the world.
In Germany, the federal office for information technology security called it the largest mass attack that the office had ever seen.
Spamhaus, based in Geneva, is a key organization that publishes a blacklist used by email providers to help filter and block obvious e-mail advertisements and solicitations known as spam.
The type of attack Spamhaus was subject to is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Such attacks are carried out when the attacker sends so many requests to a server that it is overwhelmed and goes off line.
The attacks began on a relatively small scale on March 19 and grew to the rate of 300 billion bits per second of DDoS traffic or about three times bigger than the biggest DDoS attacks known to date, the US-based ComputerWorld reported Wednesday.
"We have never before observed that amount of messages," said Timo Steffens of the German federal office for information technology security.
When Spamhaus called in the IT security company Cloudflare to help
defend against the attack, companies that provide data connections to both Spamhaus and Cloudflare were attacked. The result affected millions of ordinary internet users when the global internet traffic was clogged.
Matthew Prince, chief executive of the San Francisco-based Cloudflare, told ComputerWorld his company had never seen a public attack as large as the one launched on Spamhaus.
"As the attacks have increased, we've seen congestion across several major (networks), primarily in Europe where most of the attacks were concentrated," Prince said.
According to the Times, the attacks against Spamhaus began after it added Dutch hosting provider Cyberbunker to its global blacklist. Cyberbunker operates out of an abandoned NATO bunker in the Netherlands. It is known for hosting any website except ones dealing with child pornography and terrorism.
Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an internet activist who identified himself as a spokesman for the attackers, was quoted by the Times Wednesday as saying Cyberbunker was retaliating against Spamhaus for abusing its influence.
"Nobody ever deputized Spamhaus to determine what goes and does not go on the internet," Kamphuis said.
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