A spat between anti-spam organization Spamhaus and Dutch data-hosting company Cyberbunker has reportedly exploded into the largest Internet attack in history, noticeably slowing the Web.
The massive attack began on March 19 and has become "the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet," Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at digital content provider Akamai Networks, told The New York Times.
The size of the attack stands at around 300 billion bits per second, Spamhaus CEO Steve Linford told the BBC, which is up to six times larger than typical DDoS attacks against major banks.
"We've been under this cyber-attack for well over a week," Linford said. "[T]his sort of attack would take down pretty much anything else."
News reports say the attack has flooded the Domain Name System, which connects website URLs to underlying Internet infrastructure, with an avalanche of messages from faux Spamhaus IP addresses, in turn directing a flood messages back to Spamhaus.
"If you imagine [the Internet] as a motorway, attacks try and put enough traffic on there to clog up the on and off ramps," Alan Woodward, a University of Surrey cybersecurity expert, explained to the BBC. "With this attack, there's so much traffic it's clogging up the motorway itself."
Earlier this month Spamhaus added Cyberbunker to its spam blacklist, which is used by Internet providers to weed out unsolicited emails. An explanation on the organization's website explains that many email providers automatically cross-check the IP addresses of senders against the Spamhaus list and screen out incoming mail accordingly.
The disagreement between Spamhaus and Cyberbunker—which proudly says it works with anyone but terrorists and child pornographers—has been brewing for years. In October 2011 eWEEK Europe reported that A2B, a Dutch company that provided the "upstream" services to Cyberbunker and other companies, filed a complaint with Dutch police after Spamhaus forced it to drop Cyberbunker as a customer.
"Spamhaus told us that it wants that particular customer off the Internet, or we list all your customer IP addresses on our blacklist," A2B owner Erik Bais told eWEEK Europe in 2011. "Suddenly all of our innocent customers were asking us what is going on, as their email connections were suddenly not working."
A2B dropped Cyberbunker when its customers could not send emails and Bais reported Spamhaus to local police for "blackmail." The Switzerland-based organization responded, "If The Netherlands had penalties for wasting police time, Dutch ISP 'A2B Internet' would be looking at a hefty fine."
A self-proclaimed spokesman for the attackers told several news publications that the record-setting and ongoing Internet attack was motivated by Spamhaus' actions.
"Nobody ever deputized Spamhaus to determine what goes and does not go on the Internet," Sven Olaf Kamphuis, the self-identified spokesman, told The Telegraph. "They worked themselves into that position by pretending to fight spam."
Cyberbunker spokesman Jordan Robson was tight-lipped on the attack, telling The Telegraph, "The only thing we would like to say is that we do not, and never have, sent any spam."