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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail