Q&A: Massive denial of service attack hits SpamHaus

In one of the largest cyber attacks on record, someone has been bombarding SpamHaus with nuisance traffic in an attempt to cripple one of the key organizations that helps filter and block obvious e-mail spam.

The attack reportedly is being conducted in retaliation for SpamHaus blocking a Dutch web hosting service, which it determined to be the source of high volumes of spam.

Last Watchdog asked David Gorodyansky, CEO of consumer virtual private network vendor, AnchorFree, and Dr. Phyllis Schneck, Chief Technology Officer of McAfee’s Global Public Sector unit, to help paint the context.


LW: What role does SpamHaus play in keeping e-mail spam in check on a day-to-day basis?

 Gorodyansky: SpamHaus acts as a police agency for spam around the world. It maintains databases that are essentially massive catalogues of spam and anti-spam tools. Using this information, SpamHaus helps stop exploits and other security loopholes that could allow spam to reach consumers.

 LW: Any idea who would be motivated to disrupt SpamHaus?

 Gorodyansky: Spamhaus says that a web-host called Cyberbunker is collaborating with a Russian and Eastern European criminal organizations to facilitate the attacks. But, really anyone interested in disrupting life online could target SpamHaus.

 Schneck: In this current situation, motivation is a distraction from the core issue that denial of service attacks such as this are an abuse of distributed computing and other technological advancements that make the Internet a reliable and fast delivery mechanism.

LW Is this really the largest Internet attack ever, or is that hyperbole?

 Gorodyansky: It’s certainly up there. This is just part of an alarming trend that’s affecting our lives online: the hackers are exploiting the many positive aspects of cloud computing – sharing data across the internet instead of locally on your hard drive – and have started to target companies that house massive amounts of personal information.

LW: Why should the average person be concerned about this?

 Schneck: Flooding the network fabric creates noise that prevents good business for good people, and enables the obfuscation of more targeted, destructive attacks. This is global Internet abuse that uses good technology to enable bad actors.

 Q: What are the go-forward consequences?

 Gorodyansky: Hopefully, that both consumers and companies will start to take a long look at their online behavior. Companies need to provide better protection now that they are responsible for hosting so much of consumer’s private data, and consumers need to be on the lookout and take responsibility for their own online privacy and security.

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