London: The internet around the world has been slowed down in what experts describing as a row between a spam-fighting group and hosting firm, which block unwanted emails known as ‘spam’.
Security experts say it is a biggest cyber-attack in history.
Millions of web users have so far experienced disruption to popular services such as film and TV sites along with longer than usual delays in loading websites.
The problems began when spam-fighting company Spamhaus – a not-for-profit group that aims to help block unwanted junk emails – black-listed Dutch company Cyberbunker earlier this month.
Cyberbunker is what is known as a hosting company, meaning it allows organisations to make their websites accessible on the internet by providing space on a server.
The company’s website says it will host anything ‘except child porn and anything related to terrorism’.
Spamhaus, which has offices in London and Geneva, keeps a database of web servers which are known to be used for malicious purposes, such as sending spam mail for bogus products – such as fake weight-loss pills or Viagra – and earlier this month added Cyberbunker.
Spamhaus claims Cyberbunker has launched a huge ‘denial of service’ (DDoS) attack in retaliation by flooding its servers with internet traffic.
This is like jamming a mailbox with hundreds of letters at the same time.
Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, explained: ‘If you imagine it as a motorway, attacks try to put enough traffic on there to clog up the on and off ramps.
Steve Linford, chief executive of Spamhaus, told the BBC the scale of the attack was unprecedented and powerful enough to bring down the Government’s computer system.
He added: “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.”
Mr Linford said he could not disclose more details as there were fears those involved may also come under attack.
He added that several companies, such as Google, had made their resources available to help absorb the excess traffic.