Attackers bent on shutting down large Web sites — even the operators that run the backbone of the Internet — are arming themselves with what are effectively vast digital fire hoses capable of overwhelming the world’s largest networks, according to a new report on online security.
By John Markoff
The International Herald Tribune
In these attacks, computer networks are hijacked to form so-called botnets that spray random packets of data in huge streams over the Internet. The deluge of data are meant to bring down Web sites and entire corporate networks. Known as distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks, such cyberweapons are now routinely used during political and military conflicts, as in Estonia in 2007 during a political fight with Russia, and in the Georgian-Russian war last summer. Such attacks are also being used in blackmail schemes and political conflicts, as well as for general malicious mischief.
A survey of 70 of the largest Internet operators in North America, South America, Europe and Asia found that malicious attacks were rising sharply and that the individual attacks were growing more powerful and sophisticated, according to the Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report. This report is produced annually by Arbor Networks, a company in Lexington, Massachusetts, that provides tools for monitoring the performance of networks.
The report, which will be released Tuesday, shows that the largest attacks have grown steadily in size to over 40 gigabits, from less than half a megabit, over the last seven years. The largest network connections generally available today carry 10 gigabits of data, meaning that they can be overwhelmed by the most powerful attackers.
The Arbor Networks researchers said a 40-gigabit attack took place this year when two rival criminal cybergangs began quarreling over control of an online Ponzi scheme. “This was, initially, criminal-on-criminal crime though obviously the greatest damage was inflicted on the infrastructure used by the criminals,” the network operator wrote in a note on the attack.