Resellers 'Smurfing' security wave

Resellers 'Smurfing' security wave


Recent attacks that brought down major US Web sites last week appear to represent an opportunity for the channel, rather than a threat.

Industry figures agree the attacks like "Denial of Service" and "Smurf" and will do nothing to stem the tide of e-commerce, but instead highlight a market opportunity to sell and integrate security solutions.

Joe Sweeney, research director at analyst GartnerGroup, said revenue and share prices were not affected by the DOS attacks, which showed that e-commerce was "past that stage".

"e-commerce is now such a size that even attacks on a major site don't scare people off," Sweeney said. "Five years ago the public reaction would have been a lot more fearful and they would have avoided going online under the misconception that they could be attacked."

Belinda York, executive strategist at e-commerce development company Fishtech and Partners, said the attacks would force organisations to consider security in their e-business strategies.

"I don't want to dilute the enormity and serious nature of those offences, but I think we are on an Internet wave that's not going to stop," York said. "It is going to have its problems and its challenges, but there have always been security issues attached to the Web. This may slow things [e-commerce uptake] certainly, because security is a dire consideration. But in terms of emerging business models that won't stop."

DOS attacks, "Smurf" attacks, "Fraggle" attacks and "Ping of Death" attacks are variations on a style of attack where the hacker poses as a legitimate user and bombards theserver with "are you there?" messages to slow down or crash the system.

Bruce Tonkin, research director for recently listed domain-name registrar Melbourne IT, said the DOS attacks were not new.

"These sort of [denial of service] attacks are nothing new - they are just new to the Internet," Tonkin said. "They have been happening in the telephone world for a long time."

Gartner's Sweeney said the attacks were impossible to stop entirely, but the impact could be minimised by building resilient architecture.

"It's a nice point for resellers. To stop the attacks you need a network that's highly redundant with multiple routers, so the load is shared across a broader architecture and the attacker has to find another way in," Sweeney explained.

"You need bigger, tougher, beefier networks. There is a market for a product that monitors network performance and detects high network loads. Businesses should be doing that anyway, because sometimes high volumes of legitimate users can cause an overload."

David Elliott, Australia/New Zealand regional sales manager for Internet security company Alteon WebSystems, said his company sells a Web filtering switch which, unlike traditional routers and switches, operates in silicon.

"It's intelligent enough to terminate Web sessions in the actual switch itself," Elliott explained. "It doesn't let the user through to the server, the switch has the conversation with the server and the user. It looks at the packet and can choose to disregard it. The big difference is it's all in silicon, so it's at wire speed.

"The Web switch also deals with high volumes of legitimate traffic. If a server is getting choked, the switch will detect it and move traffic to another server. There are other things in the data path that cause bottlenecks including firewalls, and the Web switch will balance the load across the firewalls," he added.

Melbourne IT's Tonkin said the recent spate of attacks has brought Internet security back into the public eye, boosting opportunities for resellers and network integrators.

"Really it is a case that security is again becoming an issue and that has to be viewed as an opportunity to go and revisit your customers to sell them better security solutions, particularly to people that are actually doing transactions on their Web sites," Tonkin said.

Oliver Descoeudres, Memorex Telex marketing manager, said there was generally a low awareness in the marketplace of the importance of security.

"Most customers are happy with very basic security. Compared to the effort and money people put into the rest of the network, I see a lot of scope to sell security," Descoeudres said. "I'm surprised we haven't seen more high- profile incidents like these."

See Network Security feature on page 71

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