FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cyber Battles, Phoney Wars

by BINOY KAMPMARK

It is sometimes hard to yawn when it comes to cyber catastrophes and predictions of global internet meltdown, but the latest round of clashes in the global internet backyard has some experts worried. This is exactly what has been happening for a week, with London and Geneva based Spamhaus waging a battle against a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack from Dutch hosting company Cyberbunker.

It seems so childish, which is what you expect when you start surrendering conventional battlegrounds to adolescents.  With names like Spamhaus and Cyberbunker, the teenagers are running riot with their lingo and their barely pubescent attitudes riddled with angst and acne.

Victims in the battle – a term to be used advisedly – have included Netflix and an assortment of other famed websites, though one can’t help but get the feeling that there is much in the way of gong, and little in the way of dinner here.  What seems to be happening is a gang land battle between computer nerds rather than any meaningful confrontation.

Suggestively, Spamhaus makes its business battling those naughty unwanted messages that make their curving way into an email account.  The way it does so is through blacklisting servers it believes are responsible for the heinous activity, meaning that you will be free from such emails as, “Mr Wong has a business offer for you.”  Blacklisting does come at a price, as it might involve cutting another company’s grass.

Some companies responsible for hosting servers do take offence, which is exactly what Cyberbunker did when it made it to Spamhaus’s naughty list.  It would seem that the sin of Cyberbunker was its libertarian approach to hosting websites, more or less everything bar terrorism-related activities and child pornography.

The opening shots were then fired, with Spamhaus being attacked by a DDoS comprising a heavy 300 gigabits per second, a staggering amount when one considers it is three times that needed to take down government sites.  Similar attacks against bank sites tend to be in the order of 50 Gbps.  According to Cyberbunker’s Sven Olaf Kamphuis, Spamhaus had become something of a self-appointed dictator in cyberspace, a moral policeman determining “what goes and does not go on the internet.”

Computer analysts have been keen to see the fall out from this cyber skirmish as something of considerable magnitude.  According to Arbor Networks, a firm that earns its bread with protective programs against DDoS attacks, it was one of the biggest attacks on record.  “The largest DDoS attack that we have witnessed prior to this was in 2010 which was 100 Gbps,” claimed the company’s director of security research Dan Holden (BBC, Mar 28).

The response from such news outlets as the BBC was dramatic.  “Global internet slows after ‘biggest attack in history,’” seemed melodramatic, but it was based on the accounts of specialists keen to impress audiences about gloomy prospects.   Professor Alan Woodward of University of Surrey was happy to add to the image of global internet paralysis.  “If you imagine [the internet] as a motorway, attacks try and put enough traffic on there to clog on and off ramps.”  In this case, the traffic was so heavy, jams were likely.

Oddly enough, the portents of calamity have barely been registered by users and consumers of the internet.  Hardly anyone has actually noticed a more than usual sluggishness in services, and organisations monitoring the state of the internet found “zero evidence of this Dutch conflict spilling over into our online backyards” (The Guardian, Mar 28).

A more traditional approach, as reported in The Washington Post (Mar 28) would be to sever the internet cables altogether, an attempt of which was recently made by divers against Telecom Egypt.

Spamhaus claims that the attacks have been contained, and it has supporters from numerous large companies (Google, for one) that have an interest in spam filters.  The “slowing” has, for that reason, been far from noticeable. This would suggest that organisations like Spamhaus can withstand major attacks, while many governments and banks are incapable of doing the same, at least for now.

A redistribution of power has taken place before our very noses (and mouses), and the cyber teams in the employ of the state should start taking note.  The question here is what they should be guarding against.  This, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, is already being done in the US.  General Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command at the Pentagon, claims that 100 cyber teams are at work defending mainly military networks.

Even given this cautionary note, when the proof comes out of this overdone pudding, we might find that this entire episode had less to do with cyber disruption than public relations.  One can, at least for the moment, place orders via Amazon with comfort.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail