ProtonMail Hit By Massive DDoS Attack Pays Bitcoin Ransom

Security / Tech
Image Courtesy Business Insider

Encrypted email service provider ProtonMail has been hit by what they call an “unprecedented” DDoS attack on their servers and causing them to go offline. The attackers were demanding a ransom to stop the DDoS attack and ProtonMail complied due to the fact the attack affected more than 100 companies. ProtonMail initially did not want to pay the ransom but was encouraged to pay it to restore services to the companies who were feeling the pain of the service being down. The company also stated that the measures they have had to take to combat the attack has been a burden on finances and are taking donations to help mitigate the costs.

Slightly before midnight on November 3rd, 2015, we received a blackmail email from a group of criminals who have been responsible for a string of DDOS attacks which have happened across Switzerland in the past few weeks.

This threat was followed by a DDOS attack which took us offline for approximately 15 minutes. We did not receive the next attack until approximately 11AM the next morning. At this point, our datacenter and their upstream provider began to take steps to mitigate the attack. However, within the span of a few hours, the attacks began to take on an unprecedented level of sophistication.

At around 2PM, the attackers began directly attacking the infrastructure of our upstream providers and the datacenter itself. The coordinated assault on our ISP exceeded 100Gbps and attacked not only the datacenter, but also routers in Zurich, Frankfurt, and other locations where our ISP has nodes. This coordinated assault on key infrastructure eventually managed to bring down both the datacenter and the ISP, which impacted hundreds of other companies, not just ProtonMail.

At this point, we were placed under a lot of pressure by third parties to just pay the ransom, which we grudgingly agreed to do at 3:30PM Geneva time to the bitcoin address 1FxHcZzW3z9NRSUnQ9Pcp58ddYaSuN1T2y. This was a collective decision taken by all impacted companies, and while we disagree with it, we nevertheless respected it taking into the consideration the hundreds of thousands of Swiss Francs in damages suffered by other companies caught up in the attack against us. We hoped that by paying, we could spare the other companies impacted by the attack against us, but the attacks continued nevertheless. This was clearly a wrong decision so let us be clear to all future attackers – ProtonMail will NEVER pay another ransom.

ProtonMail says their systems are still vulnerable to an attack the size they experienced and are working to make their security measures better. But these measures come at a cost they estimate to be $100,000 a year. Again, they’re turning to the public for assistance in mitigating these costs so they can stay in operation.

What do you think of ProtonMail’s DDoS woes? Let us know in the comments below.

  Source: ProtonMail
To Top