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Attack of the Profit-Killer Worms

ISPs take it on the chin

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Internet worms are costing Broadband ISPs a fortune - as much as $370m worldwide in 2004. Customers foot some of the bill through higher subscription charges, but most is soaked up by their

On any given day, around five per cent of the home customers of a typical ISP will be infected by some kind of worm, according to a new study by Sandvine, an Internet traffic management firm.

This creates a huge volume of malicious traffic, especially in North America where ISPs will haemorrhage $245m this year because of virus infections (compared to an estimated $160m in 2003).

Why is there so much rubbish on the Net?
Most ISP networks contain varying degrees of latent worm activity and experience daily denial of service (DoS) attacks, the study found. Traffic generated by the six-month old Nachi worm and Trojan infections created the biggest problems.

On any given day, between two and 12 per cent of all Internet traffic moving across ISP networks is malicious. Even on well-run networks with dedicated security departments, malicious traffic makes an average of five per cent of all data.

This adds up to millions of dollars of expenditure in needless transit fees ($60,000 a year for a typical 100K-subscriber service provider, Sandvine estimates) and increased customer support charges.

Mark De Wolf, Sandvine spokesman, said the company is is not talking about an Internet meltdown, but something that is very painful for broadband ISPs. "This is an aspect of the story that seems to get lost when new worms emerge."

Security starts at home

So what's to be done? Sandvine unsurprisingly talks up the role that traffic management tools have to play.

Better security among home users would also undoubtedly help. A study from market analysts In-Stat/MDR out today forecasts that the broadband security market will reach $3.7bn by 2007, as more home users begin to understand the added risks from broadband connectivity.

Always on Internet access, static IP addresses, and the higher usage of online applications make broadband technologies insecure for both consumers and businesses, according to Jaclynn Anderson, InStat/MDR analyst.

"Additionally, broadband users are more likely to have wireless networks, telecommute, and use VPNs into corporate offices, all of which add security risks to the already vulnerable Internet subscribers."

Firewall, anti-virus, and content security firms will all benefit from increased spending, the study predicts. The home market will soak up most of the extra money, creating opportunities for resellers. ®

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