Has world’s biggest cyber-attack hit internet banking? Thousands of RBS and NatWest customers suffer mobile phone app crash after hackers launch ‘nuke’ at web

Posted: March 28, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in Tech, Technology, world
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The ‘biggest cyber attack in history’, which has been slowing down internet services for millions across the world, may have affected thousands of mobile banking customers.

Business and personal mobile banking customers for Natwest, RBS, and Ulster Bank are today experiencing problems accessing online accounts – although it has not yet been confirmed whether this is linked to the attack.

It comes after a bitter feud between two online companies – a group which aims to block unwanted emails known as ‘spam’ and a firm accused of sending them – erupted.

Spam-fighting organization Spamhaus says it’s being subjected to a massive cyber-attack, apparently from groups angry at being blacklisted by the Geneva-based group.

Millions of web users have already experienced disruption to popular services such as film and TV site Netflix, along with longer than usual delays in loading websites.

And yesterday experts warned the assault could soon impact on banking and personal email accounts.

The problems began when spam-fighting company Spamhaus – a not-for-profit group that aims to help block unwanted junk emails – black-listed Dutch company Cyberbunker earlier this month.

Cyberbunker is what is known as a hosting company, meaning it allows organisations to make their websites accessible on the internet by providing space on a server.

The company’s website says it will host anything ‘except child porn and anything related to terrorism’.

Spamhaus, which has offices in London and Geneva, keeps a database of web servers which are known to be used for malicious purposes, such as sending spam mail for bogus products – such as fake weight-loss pills or Viagra – and earlier this month added Cyberbunker.

Spamhaus claims Cyberbunker has launched a huge ‘denial of service’ (DDoS) attack in retaliation by flooding its servers with internet traffic.

This is like jamming a mailbox with hundreds of letters at the same time.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, explained: ‘If you imagine it as a motorway, attacks try to put enough traffic on there to clog up the on and off ramps.

‘With this attack, there’s so much traffic it’s clogging up the motorway itself.’

Matthew Prince, chief executive of internet security firm CloudFare, likened the move to a ‘nuclear bomb’, adding: ‘It’s so easy to cause so much damage.’

David Emm, a senior security researcher with anti-virus firm Kaspersky Labs, said the attack was slowing down the whole internet, adding: ‘It’s like if someone wanted to flood my letterbox with junk mail it would all have to go through the delivery office and that would have an effect on the delivery of other people’s letters.

‘If the mail is coming from all over the place it will have some impact on the wider delivery.’

Steve Linford, chief executive of Spamhaus, told the BBC the scale of the attack was unprecedented and powerful enough to bring down the Government’s computer system.

A spokesman for the Royal Bank of Scotland group said they were investigating the issue.

They added: ‘We are aware of a technical problem this morning which is preventing customers from logging in to our mobile banking applications.

‘We are working to fix the problem and apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused.

‘No other systems are affected.’

 Global impact: Experts say traffic to the Netflix site has been affected by the attack on anti-spam firm SpamHaus

Mr Linford said he could not disclose more details as there were fears those involved may also come under attack.

He added that several companies, such as Google, had made their resources available to help absorb the excess traffic.

Sven Olaf Kamphuis, who claims to be a spokesman for Cyberbunker, said in an online message that Spamhaus was abusing its position and should not be allowed to decide ‘what goes and does not go on the internet’.

He added: ‘We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world had publicly seen.’

Experts say such attacks are growing in power and are now six times larger than recent ones against American banks.

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