According to some experts, the biggest cyber attack in history began this week, and as a result of the battle, Internet access speeds around the world have reportedly suffered.  Amazingly, the massive attack is the result of a feud between a web hosting company and an anti-spam group.

Spamhaus is a group of technologies companies, but also includes a non-profit entity dedicated to maintaining lists of known spammers, which are widely used by ISPs to block unwanted email from their customers’ email boxes.

Cyberbunker is a web hosting firm based in The Netherlands, which promises its clients anonymity and boasts it will provide services for any individual or company, unless they are engaged in child pornography or terrorist activities.  According to CNET, Spamhaus decided to blacklist activity originating from Cyberbunker, which meant no Cyberbunker customers were able to spam a large chunk of the world’s Inboxes.

Spamhaus was then hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which it alleges is the work of Cyberbunker.  In a DDoS attack, the victim is inundated with bogus computer requests that overwhelm and bring down its servers.  Legitimate customers cannot access the company’s servers, and business can become impossible to conduct.

Think of a DDoS attack as a mega traffic jam during rush hour:  There are so many cars on the highway, and on the on and off ramps, that no one is moving.  Everything comes to a standstill.

In the case of Spamhaus, the DDoS attack was unparalleled in scope.  The BBC reports that normal DDoS attacks, ones capable of taking down major banks, measure around 50 gb/s (gigabits per second).  Spamhaus has been enduring an attack magnitude of 300 gb/s.

The effects of the conflict have spread well beyond just the two companies to large swaths of the globe.  Web sites with large bandwidth demands, such as Netflix, have reportedly been slowed too.

Spamhaus told the BBC that Google has stepped in to try to help mitigate the attack by absorbing some of the web traffic originating from the DDoS.

It’s concerning to think that this kind of alleged squabble could so quickly erupt into a worldwide Internet issue.  But even more troubling is the possibility that the attack could degrade the functionality of email and banking systems, says The Independent.

DDoS attacks are not the exclusive worry of big firms, however.  Hackers can unleash a DDoS assault against any web site.  If a cyber criminal decides your company is an easy target, he can hit your site with continual attacks that make business difficult or impossible to conduct.  He then might send you an email saying he will stop the attack for $50,000.

Cyber liability policies can cover this eventuality, and others, paying for claims related to business interruption and loss of income, loss of reputation, and cyber extortion.