Web browsing slows in Saudi under unexpected packet barrage

Unusually high volume of packets from multiple sources is consistent with a denial of service (DOS) attack, similar to those which disrupted Etisalat’s Internet services during 2000.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  February 5, 2001

Web browsing in Saudi Arabia was significantly degraded over the weekend.

King Abdulaziz City of Science & Technology (KACST) — the sole proxy gateway for entire Kingdom — was hit with “an unusually high number of packets from different sources,” for varying durations between Friday evening and mid-morning on Saturday, says director general of the Internet Services Unit, within KACST Fahad Al Hoymany. “We are still looking into that,” he added.

The unusually high volume of packets from multiple sources is consistent with a denial of service (DOS) attack, similar to which that disrupted Etisalat’s Internet services during 2000. DOS attacks, which are notoriously difficult to fend off, involve bombarding Internet servers with bogus user requests; initially slowing down the service and eventually overwhelming it and making it crash.

“There are no effective solutions against these kinds of attacks, other than to try to discard them and talk to the source asking to stop them,” commented Al Hoymany.

DOS attacks initially came to prominence during 2000 when they were used to great affect to bring down several big name sites such as Amazon, CNN and Yahoo.

According to a source within one of the Kingdom’s largest ISPs, the initial attacks commenced on Friday evening at around 9 Pm and finished around 3 Am on Saturday morning, lasting approximately six hours. The second attack started on early around 8 Am on Saturday and last another two hours. “During this attack the Internet in KSA suffered from slow browsing,” said the source.

However, by Sunday the problem appeared to have resolved itself, said a network administrator from a Saudi University.

The service disruptions come at a time when Saudi is preparing to publish Internet guidelines. Speaking to ACN last month, the director general of the Internet Services Unit (ISU) within KACST, Fahad Al Hoymany said, that the Kingdom needed to update legislation to deal with problems that could arise in the cyber age. “The new guidelines will be published soon,” he added.

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