The prominent Public and Commercial and Services union (PCS) is struggling to get its website back online after being hit by a huge DDoS attack nearly a week ago.
Government aside, sustained attacks against websites with a political theme are extremely rare in UK, and what has befallen the PCS – whose members include large numbers of public sector and government workers - could rank as the first time the country has seen a large-scale ideological attack of this kind.
Starting on 11 May, the union’s website was hit by traffic 1,000 times its normal level, taking the site down. As of 16 May, the site is still unavailable beyond a static homepage that announces the problem, with a fix unlikely for at least a day or two.
The timing of the attack could be coincidence although the union has never been attacked in this way at any time in the past. It has also came at the start of the union’s conference period that could see the PCS’s 300,000 public sector workers vote for a national strike over the issue of the issue of Government cutbacks.
"This is a clear attempt to undermine our union at what is a critical time,” claimed PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka. “Whoever is doing it might succeed in slowing our website down for a few days but they will not silence our members who are determined to fight the government's unfair and unnecessary cuts.”
The union’s web development company Pixl8 had tried blocking the IP addresses from which traffic was coming only to discover that this was stopping legitimate addresses form connecting too. This is not surprising. The DDoS will be coming via a hired botnet, which can be traced back to real PCs that have been hijacked without their knowledge.
Pixl8 hoped to up the available bandwidth by the middle of this week, a PCS spokesman said.
Assuming the motivation is not criminal, that a organisation such as the PCS is being attacked at a key moment in its calendar could be a taste of things to come for the UK’s political culture.