January 15, 2001, 3:08 PM — The free Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network run by the Undernet is continuing to be assaulted by distributed denial-of-service attacks, leading some of the companies that operate the group's servers to terminate their hosting agreements.
In an updated notice posted yesterday on its Web site, the Undernet's administrators said it's still uncertain when they will be able to restore the IRC network to full working order. The networks of the Internet service providers that host Undernet servers in the U.S. and Europe "have been subjected to continued denial-of-service attacks," the statement said.
Such attacks have been a frequent problem with IRC servers, according to the Undernet advisory. But it added that the attacks being carried out this week "have been so severe that some [companies] have terminated their agreements to host IRC servers on the Undernet network."
Even disconnecting the IRC servers hasn't stopped the attacks, the notice said. Hosting companies that have taken that step are still being assaulted, leading the Undernet's administrators to conclude that the attackers are trying "not only to destroy an IRC network, but also to adversely impact the business enterprise of individual ISPs that have hosted Undernet IRC servers."
IRC is a real-time text messaging service that predates many of the instant messaging services now available online, such as AOL's Instant Messenger. Millions of people use IRC, and Undernet is one of the largest networks, with 45 servers connecting users in more than 35 countries.
But the Undernet's administrators said the future of the group's network remains uncertain because of the ongoing attacks, which are believed to be originating from Romania.
An Undernet system administrator who spoke on condition of anonymity said the recent attacks are nothing new for IRC services. However, he said this assault appears to be an act of revenge by someone who was denied access to a specific IRC channel.
Efforts to reach Undernet officials for additional comment today were unsuccessful. The denial-of-service attacks were first reported last Sunday and have forced the organization to shut down most of its free messaging services.
Most Undernet servers are operated by Internet service providers and Web hosting firms. There are 17 Undernet servers in the U.S. and Canada at companies such as America Online Inc., AT&T Worldnet and MindSpring Enterprises Inc. As in other distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, the servers are being flooded with phony information requests that overload them.