Israeli expert says Internet slowdown could take months to fix

We may be living with a molasses-like World Wide Web for some time to come, says Avnet CEO

Macbook (photo credit: Sophie Gordon/Flash90)
Macbook (photo credit: Sophie Gordon/Flash90)

If you’ve been suffering from a slow Internet connection over the past several weeks, don’t blame your ISP. The fault may lie not with your provider, but with a large Dutch company that hosts companies that send out tons of junk email (spam).

The hosting company — Cyberbunker -– took offense when a European spam watchdog fingered it as a source of spam, and allegedly has shot back at the watchdog — Spamhaus — by sending it reams of data, effectively mounting a major denial of service (DDOS) attack. But because the whole world is networked, everybody has been feeling the effects of this tiff.

US security company Cloudflare, which first revealed the attacks last week, said it is the biggest DDOS attack in history.

According to Spamhaus CEO Steve Linford, the attack, which began March 15, is “unprecedented. These attacks are peaking at 300 gb/s (gigabits per second). Normally when there are attacks against major banks, we’re talking about 50 gb/s.” Speaking to the BBC, Linford said that the attacks were being investigated by five national cyber-police forces around the world: “They are targeting every part of the Internet infrastructure that they feel can be brought down.”

“Cyberbunker, in cooperation with ‘criminal gangs’ from Eastern Europe and Russia, is behind the attack,” added Linford.

Cyberbunker denies taking part in any DDOS attacks.

No matter who is behind it, though, we may be stuck with a slow Internet for a while, said Roni Bachar, director of cybersecurity at Israeli security company Avnet, speaking to The Times of Israel on Wednesday, as the Internet slowdown made headlines worldwide.

“Already there are zombies — the programs that are conducting the DDOS attacks — on servers all over the world. And it may take months, or even years, to figure out the signature of these attacks in order to come up with a way to battle them.” The signature refers to the programming techniques and other common technical aspects of the zombies. Similar to the method whereby computer viruses are neutralized, the tracking down of the perpetrator will enable programmers to come up with a formula to neutralize the attacks.

The prospect of living with a slow Internet for months, or years, sounds nightmarish, and Bachar is fairly confident that things could speed up much sooner — provided the source of the attacks is discovered. “Getting hold of the zombies and analyzing them will enable programmers to come up with an ‘antidote,’ and I am sure that cyber-security firms and government groups are already hard at work searching for the central servers that are running the DDOS attacks,” he said.

Until then, though, it appears that we are going to have to grin and bear the slow Internet.

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