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More Than Half Of Mobile Providers Hit By Attacks That Resulted In Outages

Arbor Networks' annual infrastructure report for 2010 shows mobile networks in the crosshairs, DDoS attacks against ISPs intensify

In a painful reminder of the fragile state of wireless network security, some 55 percent of mobile providers worldwide suffered outages in 2010 due to security incidents, according to a new report on network infrastructure released today. And more than half admit to having limited visibility into their networks.

Meanwhile, DDoS attacks against ISPs have hit a new high, breaking the 100-Gbps barrier, and application-layer attacks continue to rise beyond HTTP, with attacks against HTTPS, SMTP, and VOIP, Arbor Networks' 2010 Infrastructure Security Report found. And with the wave of attacks on high-profile commercial websites in the wake of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, DDoS has become more of a household name.

"Some said 2009 was the year of DDoS. But 2010 is the year DDoS went mainstream," says Carlos Morales, vice president of sales engineering for Arbor. "2010 is when DDoS became more noted in the public conscience .. It's the tool of choice for protest now and political/ideological motivation."

And it's becoming more frequent, affecting larger pieces of networks, companies, countries, and their economies, he says. "What was once more of a mosquito bite is now more of a shark attack," Morales says. Arbor's report draws from a survey of mostly service providers (57 percent), as well as content and application service providers, enterprises, and mobile, broadband, and DNS providers, and educational organizations worldwide.

The outages due to incidents suffered by mobile providers come as no surprise given the wireless explosion. Most mobile providers have been on a tear to grow their services, but security hasn't kept up. "They are a full decade behind in defense and the capabilities they should have in place," Morales says.

Only 23 percent of the wireless provider respondents say they can view their wireless packet networks as well as or better than their wired ones.

On the wired side, DDoS attacks have been on a 102 percent increase year-over-year, according to the report, and up 1,000 percent from when Arbor first reported on this in 2005. And DDoS attackers are moving beyond the traditional, too-conspicuous SYN flood attacks, to more application-layer attacks. While HTTP and DNS are the top two DDoS targets, DDoS attacks are also now going after HTTP-S, SMTP mail, and VoIP (via SIP) applications, the report says. Around 77 percent of the respondents say they experienced application-layer attacks last year.

"It's all about what's available for them to infiltrate. If you lock the doors, someone is going to come through the window," Morales says. "SYN and other [lower-layer] attacks can get a lot of bandwidth and are easy to distinguish from other traffic. Application attacks may not be as easy to distinguish because they don't take a lot of infrastructure to do."

And nearly 70 percent of these network providers get hit by at least one DDoS attack each month, while 35 percent see 10 or more per month.

"Another factor is that operators, in general, aren't keeping up with attackers," Morales says. And firewalls, IDS, and IPS devices are frequently targeted, he says.

A full copy of the Arbor report is available here.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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