Cyberbunker vs. Spamhaus shows good guys having impact

SEATTLE — A central figure has emerged in the denial-of- service attacks that disrupted The Spamhaus Project, and slowed Internet traffic in parts of Europe.

He is one Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who is closely associated with a legitimate Dutch Internet Service Provider, Cyberbunker. According to reports in The Daily Beast and New York Times, he has been a key rabble rouser in the denial-of-service attack campaign against Spamhaus, which ranks among the largest such attacks ever.

Spamhaus maintains blacklists of ISPs distributing obvious e-mail spam. And the barrage was deployed in retaliation for SpamHaus’ blacklisting of Cyberbunker.

Kamphuis portrays himself on his Facebook page as the champion of web hosting services who are fully justified in providing Internet access to all comers, while organizations like Spamhaus embody arrogant authority figures.

Garth Bruen is an adviser to the Digital Citizens Alliance, a consumer-oriented coalition based in Washington, D.C., and the owner of Boston-based company KnujOn, which focuses on anti-spam efforts.


In Bruen’s view, the denial of service attacks on Spamhaus crossed a rubicon. “This is the equivalent to throwing a brick through a store window — the kind of things we saw the mafia do to take control of neighborhoods 50 years ago,” says Bruen. “What is troubling here is Cyberbunker is a commercial ISP, and we see a real service provider and working with shadowy figures in undisclosed locations.”

Bruen says this is partly because it is “absurdly easy to become an ISP.” He likens it to Elvis Presley buying a local pharmacy to support his drug addiction.

Spammers and cybercriminals have made enough money to invest in Internet infrastructure, and, in effect, emerge as “their own de facto island nation-states,” Bruen says.

“As we heard in reports, many of these DDoS attacks are state-sponsored and designed to hurt US government and corporate interests,” Bruen says. “Clearly, no organization is too big to strike. Last week, a cyberattack generally credited to North Korea crippled systems in South Korea.”

The silver lining? Cyberbunker’s retaliation affirms that organizations like Spamhaus, the Anti-Phishing Working Group and StopBadware are having a material positive effect.

Cybercriminals cannot operate with absolute impunity, and are prone to petulant fits of retaliation.

“No one would attack Spamhaus if their efforts to police spammers were not effective,” says Bruen. “Something Spamhaus is doing is hitting the pocketbooks of the crooks exploiting the Internet economy.”

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