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ISPs (but not big telcos) to offer bandwidth filtering

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The rise in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is creating a market for ISPs that offer that offer a 'clean feed' to clients. Hosting companies and ISPs might be able to charge a premium of between 20 and 50 per cent for bandwidth filtered to remove hostile traffic, according to security appliance firm Top Layer.

Paul Lawrence, EMEA general manager at Top Layer, said that larger telcos are not prepared to make the investment in kit necessary to deliver such services because there's "not enough pressure from the bottom not enough legislative force from the top". So it's been left to smaller ISPs to provide hacker defence services.

For example, on-line retailers concerned about DDoS attacks can dynamically re-route Internet traffic to Globix's traffic cleaning service. Offered as an initial three-month package, corrupt traffic is "off-loaded" and legitimate traffic is passed back to clients for processing. The Globix Network Defender uses intrusion prevention technology (Attack Mitigator 5500 boxes) from Top Layer.

Firewalls alone are not enough to thwart today's more sophisticated range of attacks, while Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) detect and record attacks, but do not block them. In response, a range of vendors, such as Top Layer and Tipping Point, have developed dedicated intrusion prevention appliances to provide in-line protection against a range of internet attacks.

The market for these intrusion prevention appliances remains in its infancy and is regarded as "experimental" or at least immature by at least some in the telecoms industry.

Ray Stanton, BT's newly appointed global head of security services and solutions, told The Register he regarded IDS used in conjunction with data mining tools as a better approach to reducing security exposure than IDS alone. "IDS have had a bad press with concerns about false positives but the technology - unlike intrusion prevention - is mature. IDS are often not tuned and that's where the problem comes in. It comes down to the ability to manage," Stanton said.

Top Layer's Lawrence said that software-based IDS systems have architectural limits that make them unsuitable for defence against aggressive DDoS attacks. "Defensive technology needs to be deployed closer to the core of networks, where you need higher performance that can't be done on a PC or server, no matter how powerful it is," he said. ®

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