Irate football fans launched DoS attacks

Manchester United fans enraged at Malcolm Glazer's takeover bid unleashed cyberattacks against the American millionaire's legal advisors earlier this year

Legal firm Allen & Overy fought off a number of DoS attacks earlier this year when it was negotiating Malcolm Glazer's takeover bid of Manchester United, a company representative has revealed.

Infuriated fans of the club attempted to overload the firm's servers "by sending a large quantity of large emails," over the months that Allen & Overy were representing Glazer, according to Mark Andrews, infrastructure developer with the firm.

"Their intention was to stop us from representing Glazer," Andrews told ZDNet UK at a roundtable security session in London on Wednesday.

The fans "mounted a fairly crude attack" in response to the American millionaire's ultimately successful takeover bid earlier this year, targeting visible representatives of the company, such as the lead partner in the firm and the head of the external PR company, Andrews said.

The attack did not crash the firm's servers but instead slowed down emails being sent and received at the firm because of the volume of massive emails being queued at the portal, according to Andrews. "It was an annoyance," he said.

It was fairly easy to remedy the situation as the attack was "so unsophisticated", according to Andrews. The firm "simply put in blocks at the perimeter through the service provider" in order to filter the spam, Andrews said. "Interestingly, if you try to send us emails even now with words like 'Man United' or 'Glazer' in, they'll bounce back," he added.

The current Computer Misuse Act (1990) does not specifically cover DoS attacks, although the government is currently reviewing this legislation. Even though Allen & Overy were subject to such attacks, Andrews is not in favour of tougher legislation.

"There will always be somewhere in the world where an attack can be launched," he said. "There are Manchester United fans in other countries after all," Andrews said.

According to reports, Deutsche Bank was forced to pull out of talks with Glazer in late 2004 after being bombarded with faxes, phone calls and emails from Manchester United fans.