Anti-spam organisation hit by colossal cyber attack

March 28, 2013

Reports are emerging this week of a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack which some experts are calling the biggest cyberattack in the history of the internet.

The attack was targeted at anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, and may have been executed by users angry at having been placed on the company's 'blacklist' of IP addresses and computers which have distributed spam in the past.

In a blog post published March 20, Spamhaus confirmed that the attack had occurred and acknowledged that the Spamhaus website and email system were both "knocked down for a while".

"At this time the main Spamhaus website is back up (that's what you are reading!) and we're bringing other public systems back up as this goes to press," reads the blog post.

"Due to the unpredictable nature of DDoS attacks, we can't provide an estimate of that progress, but we want those systems up as much as you do."

There are several different types of DDoS attacks, but the most commonly reported is one in which a user or group of cybercriminals attempts to overload an organisation's website by bombarding it with a vast amount of information requests.

According to data released by Cloudflare on March 20, Spamhaus was initially hit with a "relatively modest" attack of around 10GBps, before the attack spiked to reach nearly 120GBps.

Cloudflare – an organisation which specialises in improving website performance and assisting organisations with website vulnerability management – assisted Spamhaus with mitigating the impact of the attack.

The story once again highlights the manner in which modern cybersecurity threats are growing in sophistication and scale every day, and that a cyberattack can come from a variety of sources.

In order to protect your organisation against cyberthreats such as hacking and social engineering, it might be worthwhile undergoing an ethical hacking evaluation in 2013.

Chief architect at digital content provider Akamai Technologies Patrick Gilmore was quoted by The New York Times as saying that the attack in question "is the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet".

That opinion was reinforced by internet activist Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who is serving as a spokesman for the DDoS attackers.

"We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world had publicly seen," said Mr Kamphuis in an online message.

Mr Kamphuis has justified the attacker's actions by claiming that Spamhaus abused its influence, arguing that no one ever "deputised" Spamhaus to "determine what goes and does not go on the Internet".

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