Networks, not just end users, are urged to guard against bots

AT&T's CSO, Ed Amoroso, has called on competitors and the U.S. government to help it cope with increasing denial of service (DDOS) attacks over its network, according to the company's executive director of technology security, Michael Singer.

Singer explained in a briefing last week at the company's Global Network Operations Centre that AT&T has experienced a huge increase in DDOS attacks, which require an increase in capacity on the network to filter bad traffic.

"Ed Amoroso has reached out to partners within the industry and also governments to see if we can work together to defend against these attacks. If the attacks become bigger than AT&T, can we rely on competitors to work together to block it? Maybe together we would have enough capacity to handle some sort of supersized attack," said Singer.

"I think the concern is that it's not amateurs, or cyber-crime rings, it's now huge organizations carrying it out—cyber armies." He added: "We think it's key for the industry to be successful that we cooperate with other suppliers and competitors to stand up against these attackers."

DDOS attacks increase

Singer said that this year AT&T experienced an increased level of DDOS attacks, some of which it managed to intervene before it reached its customers, by filtering the bad traffic.

"We have a lot of focus on DDOS, this year has been crazy for it. We saw very organized, well-planned attacks against our customers that we tried to step in front of and defend from all the garbage being sent at them," said Singer.

"In some cases it worked beautifully and our customers never noticed the impact, but in other cases the attackers kept changing and doing things different—different mixes of traffic, switching from big packets to small packets, higher volumes."

"We used to think a 3 gigabit per second attack was a big attack. In the late summer attacks, the attackers collected infected systems that weren't residential users with a PC. They went into hosting facilities, and had very large servers that they were able to compromise and put a PHP script on, add more resources, more computing power, and more bandwidth. They were able to generate larger amounts of traffic than we have seen previously."

Because of the recent increase in bad traffic, AT&T is being forced to invest in boosting capacity on its network. Singer said: "We are talking about doubling the nodes we already have, creating super-double-sized nodes. Increasing how much we can withstand."

DDOS attacks are becoming an increasingly prevalent threat for enterprises across the U.K. For example, HSBC recently found many of its important websites rendered inaccessible for ten hours by one of the most successful DDoS attacks ever to hit a prominent U.K. company.

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