Cyberfight puts a drag on the Internet

A fight between a spam-fighting group called Spamhaus and a Dutch Web host Cyberbunker has been called the biggest public DDoS battle in history.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

A cyberwar is under way between two companies over a recent move made by one.

Spam-fighting organization, Spamhaus, which works with e-mail providers around the globe to block spam from entering in-boxes, has been in a battle over the last week that has seen distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks exceed by several times the typical attacks inflicted on organizations.

Spamhaus hosts a blacklist made up of servers that, it believes, are designed to send spam around the world. Recently, the organization added a Dutch Web hosting company named Cyberbunker to its blacklist. Cyberbunker, which gets its name from its headquarters in a former NATO bunker and allows its customers to maintain their anonymity, has built its business on accepting any and all customers, except those engaged in child pornography and terrorism-related activities.

A spokesman for Spamhaus told The New York Times in a statement published today that a massive DDoS attack was launched against it on March 19. The attack, which has been ongoing since then, is somewhat different from typical DDoS attacks. Over the last week, the attackers have been hitting Spamhaus with attacks peaking at 300 gigabits per second -- six times greater than similar attacks designed to take down sites with powerful defenses, like banks.

The attack is targeting Spamhaus' Domain Name System (DNS) servers that connect to the underlying infrastructure of the Internet that turns typical Web addresses into numerical information that the technology can understand. That has resulted, according to reports, in some service slowdowns across the Internet, due to the sheer amount of data hitting the DNS through the attack.

According to the BBC, which earlier reported on the story and spoke with Spamhaus, Netflix is experiencing a slowdown, and it's possible that entire sites will either be slow or inaccessible due to the continued attacks. Spamhaus has, however, been able to stay up, thanks to its massive DNS server system and help from companies, including Google, that have helped carry some of the load.

For its part, Cyberbunker has not confirmed that it's behind the attacks, but Spamhaus believes that it is. Spamhaus has also alleged that "criminal gangs" from Eastern Europe and Russia are also participating in the attacks.

CNET has contacted Cyberbunker for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.