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Cyber war between companies slows worldwide internet traffic

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

How's your internet today? If you've found it slow, it might not be your computer. Instead, a major battle between two European corporate entities has grown so vicious and so large that it's slowing down worldwide internet traffic. Spamhaus, which regulates spam on the internet, is allegedly being attacked by Cyberbunker, a Dutch company that hosts controversial content on the internet.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Cyberbunker appears to be the alleged aggressor in a fight that started when Spamhaus added Cyberbunker to their blacklist. Cyberbunker is a Dutch webshosting company that vows to host anything, with the exception of child pornography and terrorism-related material.

This anything goes attitude has brought criticism to Cyberbunker who has been accused of allowing unsavory characters to propagate their views across the internet. Cyberbunker is popular with controversial clients because it protects their anonymity. The company even hosts its servers in a former cold-war NATO bunker as part of its brand image.

Spamhaus has taken exception to Cyberbunker before, accusing it of harboring spammers and cyber criminals. Cyberbunker also hosts The Pirate Bay, an infamous file sharing (software piracy) website.

Spamhaus is accusing Cyberbunker of permitting its clients to send spam all over the world and has added them to a blacklist, which has blocked traffic to the web service. Spamhaus helps major email providers around the world to block spam email, which comprises about 90 percent of internet traffic.

Cyberbunker is taking exception to the blacklisting, accusing Spamhaus of abusing its privileged position and saying that Spamhaus should not be permitted to control what happens on the internet.

Spamhaus's decision to blacklist Cyberbunker has prompted a massive retaliation of unprecedented proportions. Spamhaus has been under an intense Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS) which Spamhaus reports has exceeded 300 gb/s (gigabits per second) which is virtually unprecedented. Typical attacks against major institutions usually top out at 50 gb/s.

The attacks first began on March 15.

In their most basic form, Distributed Denial of Service attacks consist of overwhelming a targeted server or site with so much traffic that it shuts down and prevents real clients from doing business. Such an attack can be costly, leading to lost revenues. For example, a business that relies on online traffic to survive cannot sustain itself if its website is inaccessible to legitimate clients.

Perpetrators have been defend such tactics as a legitimate form of protest akin to a sit-in. Sit-ins were used as a form of protest in the 1950s United States to temporarily close businesses that participated in racial segregation.

For now, Spamhaus is still up and running thanks to allies such as Google that is soaking up some of the traffic and blunting the attack.

Cyberbunker however, is still inaccessible.

It is unclear just who exactly is behind the attacks, since Cyberbunker may not be the originator of the attacks, despite their casus belli with Spamhaus. Cyberbunker does have powerful allies, including known cybercriminals from Eastern Europe and Russia, who could also be launching the attacks on Cyberbunker's behalf.

The current struggle will likely wind down as the attacks appear to have peaked and have failed to shut down Spamhaus. They are a curious feature of the internet and hint at the future of war, which increasingly includes conflict between sparring private organizations.

Unfortunately, sooner or later you will be directly affected by such conflict, be it extra spam in your email or losing access to your bank account. Just as in the days of traditional warfare, it's the ordinary citizen who's likely to suffer most.

UPDATE: As of 11:00 a.m. PDT, Cyberbunker is online and operating.

UPDATE: It appears Cyberbunker has been removed from the blacklist, although legal conflict between the companies is likely to persist.

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