Firm Is Accused of Sending Spam, and Fight Jams Internet

by JOHN MARKOFF and NICOLE PERLROTH, The New York Times  |  published on March 28, 2013

internet

A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world.

Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in services like Netflix or could not reach a particular Web site for a short time.

However, for the Internet engineers who run the global network the problem is more worrisome. The attacks are becoming increasingly powerful, and computer security experts worry that if they continue to escalate people may not be able to reach basic Internet services, like e-mail and online banking.

The dispute started when the spam-fighting group, called Spamhaus, added the Dutch company Cyberbunker to its blacklist, which is used by e-mail providers to weed out spam. Cyberbunker, named for its headquarters, a five-story former NATO bunker, offers hosting services to any Web site “except child porn and anything related to terrorism,” according to its Web site.

A spokesman for Spamhaus, which is based in Europe, said the attacks began on March 19, but had not stopped the group from distributing its blacklist.

Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at Akamai Technologies, a digital content provider, said Spamhaus’s role was to generate a list of Internet spammers.

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