x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE and Gulf braces for slow internet speeds in wake of 'world's biggest cyber attack'

Companies across the region are bracing for more internet disruption in the wake of what has been described as the world's biggest cyber attack and a cut cable in the Mediterranean sea.

Companies across the region are bracing for more internet disruption in the wake of what has been described as the world's biggest cyber attack.

It has been sparked by a clash between Spamhaus, a UK spam-filtering outfit and Cyberbunker, a Netherlands-based web-hosting site. The Dutch company believes Spamhaus should not have the right to determine what goes on to the internet.

"It will have a major impact worldwide," said one cyber expert. "Spamhaus has servers that stop spam from going to the internet. There are a lot of companies in the region that subscribe to this to stop spam coming to them.

"If these guys are not working, spam will go on and increase traffic on the internet. The impact will be on places where there is a direct connection. It will clog up the whole internet."

Kaspersky Labs confirmed the attack was the largest seen to date.

"The data flow generated by such an attack may affect intermediate network nodes when it passes them, thus impeding operations of normal web services that have no relation to Spamhaus or Cyberbunker. Thus such distributed denial of service ... attack may affect regular users as well, with network slowdown," said a statement from Kaspersky.

The attacks have since subsided according to Spamhaus and are smaller in size, "however, attacks do not just come and go. They also change in nature all the time", said the company on its website.

The disruption comes after several days of slow internet connectivity in the region after the undersea fibre optic cable Seacom was cut by a ship anchor last week off the coast of Egypt.

On Wednesday Egyptian naval forces arrested three men alleged to be trying to cause further damage to the cable which connects Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Etisalat's internet connectivity slowed down significantly as a result of the cut.

The phone company du said yesterday that the cable cuts had not affected customers with fixed and mobile voice and internet services working normally. Etisalat was unavailable for comment.

"It is hard to work out what the causes of these attacks were. One of the reasons most commonly cited is to do with ship pilots racing to get into docks first and once they get ahead they throw down their anchor to slow down, which severs cables," said Matthew Reed, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media.

thamid@thenational.ae