So was the attack on not-for-profit anti-spam group Spamhaus earlier this week really the “biggest cyberattack in history” as reported?

Noted The U.K. Guardian:

“The headlines have been apocalyptic: ‘Global internet slows after biggest attack in history;’ ‘Biggest ever cyberattack slows internet for millions;’  The attack that nearly broke the internet;’ ‘Cyber attack jams crucial infrastructure around the world.'”

The “combatants,” according to Gizmodo and other news reports, was Spamhaus and Cyberbunker, a company alleged to host spammers.

But U.S.-based Keynote Systems says its global Internet performance monitoring data shows a much different story than an Internet meltdown. 

“The numbers don’t lie – and that’s a fact,” Aaron Rudger, Keynote’s web performance expert, said, citing two charts of data that showed little impact. (Charts are included with this post.)

“The first is of website speed averaged across our KB40 Index of sites for the past four weeks, as measured by a handful of our agents in Europe, as well as three in the U.S. (for comparison).

“What you’ll find is that the European agents report back pretty consistent and normal performance throughout that period. In other words, the Internet appears to relatively unclogged throughout most of the DDoS [distributed denial of service] event. However, there is a little blip that shows up yesterday across the European agents.

“The second graph (attached) zooms-in on the past three days only (the ‘blip’). We do see that the European agents were experiencing slower response times—up to 40 percent slower than average—between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (PST) on March 26.

“It is possible that the Spamhaus attack could be related to this slowdown but we can’t be sure. There was a big soccer game (France vs. Spain) also being played during that time frame—if thousands of people were streaming it, that could constrict bandwidth. The claims have been of ‘days of disruption’— which we simply do not see from our data.”

Website Gizmodo also dismissed the attack:

“You might’ve read some headlines [Wednesday]—in very reputable publications—saying that there’s an online attack underway. The biggest in history. Enough to slow down the internet. This would be exciting and scary, except it’s just not true.”

Gizmodo pointed to data from Internet Traffic Report that also showed no big problems.

Not everyone agrees with Keynote and Internet Traffic Report, however.

The Associated Press described the incident as a “furious assault” on Spamhaus that “shattered the charts, clocking in at 300 billion bits per second, according to San Francisco-based CloudFlare Inc., which Spamhaus has enlisted to help it weather the attack.”

Some critics are charging that CloudFlare hyped the scope of the attack as a publicity ploy.

But the AP quoted Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies as describing the attack as “the largest that has been publicly disclosed — ever — in the history of the Internet.”

Hype? Fact? We may never really know.