Several of the world's largest Web sites, including Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!, went offline yesterday because of an electronic attack on Akamai, the hosting company that mirrors those sites for performance reasons. The sites were offline at various times between 9 A.M. and 11 A.M. Eastern time, according to reports.
"It was a large-scale, international attack on \[the\] Internet infrastructure," an Akamai spokesperson said, although later evidence suggested that only Akamai-mirrored sites were knocked offline. More important, perhaps, is the news that the availability of all Internet sites dropped only about 20 percent during the attacks--from 100 percent to just over 80 percent. However, the availability of Akamai-hosted sites dropped to nearly 0 percent. "We do know that attack was against four sites that happened to be Akamai customers," the company spokesman said. "But I don't know if the intent was to go after Akamai or go after Web properties that happened to be customers of ours."
Currently, Akamai isn't sure where the attack originated and hasn't released any details. But reports circulating among security experts suggest that the attack originated with Akamai's DNS servers, which at times route as much as 15 percent of all Internet traffic.