Dutch citizens keep extra cash at hand following DDoS attacks

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   May 22, 2013

Month-long attacks had significant impact.

25% of Dutch citizens have followed advice to keep extra cash at home, following a recent spate of DDoS attacks on Dutch banks.

At the beginning of April, customers of Dutch bank ING reported that the balance of their online bank account wasn't what they expected it to be, with the difference in some cases running to hundreds of euros. Some customers even reported that they were unable to pay using chip-and-pin as a consequence. Initially, the bank blamed the issue on a technical error, and reassured its customers that no money had disappeared.

While the bank appears to have been right on the latter account, it later changed its statement and revealed that the issues had been caused by a DDoS attack. And that was just the beginning: the attacks spread to other banks, taking down their websites and online payment systems. They also took down iDEAL, a widely used online payments system.

Over the next few weeks, as many other organisations were targeted by similar attacks, DDoS became a prime item on the news - making knowledge of DDoS attacks among the Dutch population more widespread than in any other country (with the possible exception of Estonia). Victims included the country's largest newspaper, the tax and customs administration, and various government services, including DigiD, an identity management platform for Dutch citizens on the Internet. The attacks led to DigiD temporarily being closed for access from abroad.

Although no new attacks have been reported since 8th May, the impact of the attacks on the country - where Internet penetration is extremely high - has been significant. It has led many people to wonder whether they have become too dependent on online services.

The attacks also prompted advice from Nibud, a charity that aims to make families more aware of their finances, to keep some extra cash at hand. Taken out of context, this might seem overly paranoid. However, the attacks have shown that, despite all their benefits, online payment systems create a single point of failure. Being too dependent on them might not be a good idea. Nibud found that 75% of people were aware of their advice - and 25% had actually followed it.

Two important questions about the attacks remain unanswered: who was behind them? And why did they do it?

Although in the past DDoS attacks have been used to hide theft or to extort money from the targeted sites, the scale, variation and longevity of these attacks make these unlikely reasons.

Of course, the attacks could have been performed by an organisation that holds a grudge against the Netherlands, simply to 'make a point'. There have been suggestions that the attacks are a retaliation against the arrest in Spain and subsequent extradition to the Netherlands of Sven Olaf Kamphuis, himself accused of orchestrating DDoS attacks against Spamhaus.

While Kamphuis's supporters would have a reason for the attacks, it wouldn't explain why they started three weeks before Kamphuis's arrest - or why they have stopped, while Kamphuis remains in custody.

Perhaps the real reason for the attacks will never be known. But they have certainly taught Dutch citizens how important online services have become and how dependent many are on them - and that this isn't always a good thing.

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Martijn Grooten

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