In March 2013, a coalition of spammers and spam-friendly hosting firms pooled their resources to launch what would become the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack the Internet had ever witnessed. The assault briefly knocked offline the world’s largest anti-spam organization, and caused a great deal of collateral damage to innocent bystanders in the process. Here’s a never-before-seen look at how that attack unfolded, and a rare glimpse into the shadowy cybercrime forces that orchestrated it.
The following are excerpts taken verbatim from a series of Skype and IRC chat room logs generated by a group of “bullet-proof cybercrime hosts” — so called because they specialized in providing online hosting to a variety of clientele involved in spammy and scammy activities.
Gathered under the banner ‘STOPhaus,’ the group included a ragtag collection of hackers who got together on the 17th of March 2013 to launch what would quickly grow to a 300+Gigabits per second (Gbps) attack on Spamhaus.org, an anti-spam organization that they perceived as a clear and present danger to their spamming operations.
The attack –a stream of some 300 billion bits of data per second — was so large that it briefly knocked offline Cloudflare, a company that specializes in helping organizations stay online in the face of such assaults. Cloudflare dubbed it “The Attack that Almost Broke the Internet.”
The campaign was allegedly organized by a Dutchman named Sven Olaf Kamphuis (pictured above). Kamphuis ran a company called CB3ROB, which in turn provided services for a Dutch company called “Cyberbunker,” so named because the organization was housed in a five-story NATO bunker and because it had advertised its services as a bulletproof hosting provider.
Kamphuis seemed to honestly believe his Cyberbunker was sovereign territory, even signing his emails “Prince of Cyberbunker Republic.” Arrested in Spain in April 2013 in connection with the attack on Spamhaus, Kamphuis was later extradited to The Netherlands to stand trial. He has publicly denied being part of the attacks and his trial is ongoing.
According to investigators, Kamphuis began coordinating the attack on Spamhaus after the anti-spam outfit added to its blacklist several of Cyberbunker’s Internet address ranges. The following logs, obtained by one of the parties to the week-long offensive, showcases the planning and executing of the DDoS attack, including digital assaults on a number of major Internet exchanges. The record also exposes the identities and roles of each of the participants in the attack.
The logs below are excerpts from a much longer conversation. The entire, unedited chat logs are available here. The logs are periodically broken up by text in italics, which includes additional context about each snippet of conversation. Also please note that the logs below may contain speech that some find offensive. Continue reading →