Monday 26 August, 2013
In March 2013, the world saw the largest cyber-attack in history. It was so massive that it slowed down internet connections across the globe and threw internet security experts into a blind panic, expecting that it would get worse before it got better.
The attack hit the anti-spam group Spamhaus Project. The Spamhaus Project is a European watchdog group that goes after spammers, making it an ideal target for cyber crooks. It blacklists sites that it believes harbors spammers and it does a good job of it. It’s estimated that Spamhaus is singularly responsible for cutting about 80 percent of the world’s spam out of our inboxes.
Spamhaus was going after data storage service CyberBunker, who it accused of providing a safe haven for spammers. Indeed, according to CyberBunker’s website, it offers hosting to any website ‘except child porn and anything related to terrorism.’
A Digital Nuclear Holocaust
The cyber-attack has been nicknamed Onslaught and it was a type of attack that sends what is likened to ‘digital nuclear bombs.’ The technical term for this kind of attack is DDoS, or distributed denial of service. A DDoS is a spray of digital traffic that crams a network. It’s like stuffing too many letters and packages into a mailbox so that nothing else can get in.
News of the attack started when Spamhaus reported to internet security firm CloudFlare, one of its associated firms, that it had been hit with an attack it feared could knock it offline entirely. The attack was different from other DDoS attacks because it targeted the network’s infrastructure.
Soon the rest of the world was starting to feel the effects of the attack. With all of the digital traffic clogging networks, users of Netflix and other web-based services were not able to access them. Security experts feared that the attack could spread to web browsing and email service as well.
Luckily, this didn’t happen, although the attacks managed to affect millions of internet users around the world. Before Onslaught, the biggest cyber-attack was the one a series of attacks that hit US banking sites. That attack sent 100 billion bits of digital traffic per second. Onslaught sent 300 billion.
CyberBunker, a service that’s based in the Netherlands, claimed no responsibility for the attacks. It’s the kind of internet service provider that is blissfully ignorant of what its users do and considers itself a bastion of freedom for doing so. But within the next month, in April 2013, Spanish authorities arrested a Dutch man as a suspect behind the attacks.
There are around 7,000 DDoS attacks perpetrated against websites daily and this number is increasing. If you’re the victim of an attack, it could prevent your website’s communications, transaction processing and overall functioning, virtually shutting down your site. This can mean lost revenue for you. Many internet security firms and software programs offer DDoS mitigation services to prevent attacks.