Google pulls Krebs on Security out of the abyss

Google parent company Alphabet's Project Shield has come to the rescue after a devastating DDoS attack prompted Akamai's pro bono support to end.

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Screenshot via ZDNet

Security blog Krebs on Security is back online after a week of disruptions caused by one of the largest DDoS attacks on record.

Last week, security researcher Brian Krebs' blog vanished from the Internet after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) levied against Krebs on Security sustained an attack reaching 620 Gbps in size.

While not successful, the attack forced the hosting provider, Akamai Technologies, to issue Krebs his marching orders rather than take what was likely to be a hard financial hit for supporting the website pro bono.

The DDoS threw everything including SYN Floods, GET Floods, ACK Floods, POST Floods, and GRE Protocol Floods at the website, as well as overflowed Krebs' inbox with subscriptions and Skype with garbage requests.

Akamai has protected Krebs from many DDoS attacks through the years, but the latest attack was different. Close to double the size of previous attacks, engineers were hard pressed to keep the website going -- and while Akamai and DDoS protection outfit Prolexic were able to fend off the 620 Gbps attack, the disruption was enough to force the companies to tell Krebs to pack his bags.

While the security researcher is clear that he does not fault Akamai for the decision, Krebs had only two hours to arrange the migration of his website off the network. The security expert also asked Akamai to redirect his website to 127.0.0.1 to prevent Akamai from bearing the brunt of more attacks on his behalf and instead pour any remaining malicious traffic into a dark hole.

Speaking to The Boston Globe, the cloud services provider said that the DDoS attack, if sustained further, would have cost "millions of dollars in cybersecurity services."

However, Krebs on Security is now back in business after Google parent company Alphabet came to the rescue through the Jigsaw think tank Project Shield program.

See also: How cybercriminals earned $100,000 just by sending a DDoS threat email

Project Shield is a free service run by the tech giant to help protect news outlets, journalists and free speech as a whole from online censorship -- and DDoS attacks of this magnitude which ended up forcing Krebs' blog offline fit the bill.

While one hosting provider offered to host Krebs after the attack, they wanted between $150,000 and $200,000 per year for the same kind of protection the security expert had under Akamai's wing, which is far more than most journalists would ever be able to afford.

"A number of other providers offered to help, but it was clear that they did not have the muscle to be able to withstand such massive attacks," Krebs noted.

Unfortunately, DDoS attacks are gaining in size and power -- with millions of insecure IoT devices waiting to be enslaved making the problem worse -- and without the clout to repel them, free speech online could become a victim. But with such heavyweight help on hand, Krebs should be protected from further attacks.

Krebs says:

"I don't know what it will take to wake the larger Internet community out of its slumber to address this growing threat to free speech and e-commerce. My guess is it will take an attack that endangers human lives, shuts down critical national infrastructure systems, or disrupts national elections.

But what we're allowing by our inaction is for individual actors to build the instrumentality of tyranny. And to be clear, these weapons can be wielded by anyone -- with any motivation -- who's willing to expend a modicum of time and effort to learn the most basic principles of its operation."

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