Windows worms tax ISPs

European ISPs hit for €123m in 2004


Computer worms will cost European ISPs an estimated €123m this year, according to a study by Sandvine. The Net traffic management firm says its study shows attacks on European service providers are now a daily occurrence.

Although worms are usually associated with attacks on corporate networks, the malicious traffic also ties up service provider networks, degrading the broadband experience for home Internet users. Meanwhile, outbreaks of computer worms generate a huge upsurge in support calls to ISPs. On any given day, between five and 12 per cent of all Internet traffic moving across European ISP networks is malicious, according to Sandvine.

Counting the costs

Working from metrics derived from its European customers and other industry research, Sandvine reckons that worm attacks will cost the European service provider sector more than €123m in 2004 and €159m in 2005. The problem will cause UK ISPs €22.4m this year. French ISPs will haemorrhage €17.9m and German ISPs €22.7m for the same reason, according to Sandvine.

These estimates cover the cost of specialised tactical response teams, swamping of customer support resources, inflated transit costs and perhaps most damaging over the long term, a loss of brand equity that aggravates the industry-wide problem of customer churn. Estimating the financial cost of computer worms is a notoriously inexact science but Sandvine's argument - that broadband firms are suffering financially because of computer worms - remains sound.

"The quickening pace of worm attacks makes understanding their impact on service providers increasingly urgent," said Tom Donnelly, co-founder and marketing veep at Sandvine. "Worms exact a massive toll by forcing service providers to mobilise premium resources in order to quell attacks and protect the subscriber experience."

Sandvine researchers have also uncovered another type of expensive worm activity: persistent, low-level attack traffic caused by remnants of previous worms which cling-on tenanciously to residential subscriber PCs. Cumulatively, worms of both magnitudes are now an operational preoccupation for network managers and a worrisome drag on ISP profit margins, Sandvine says.

Windows security tax

Linux worms are not unknown (lion for example) but the vast majority of Worms exploit vulnerable Microsoft systems to spread: Code Red, Nimda, Blaster, Sasser - the list goes on. The pain experienced by telcos was a driving factor behind Microsoft's release of tool to purge systems infected by Blaster. Defending systems against Blaster-style attacks has created a new segment in the security market which host-based intrusion prevention firms (Cisco, PrevX, SecureWave), firewall vendors (Check Point etc.) and filtering firms (Scan Safe etc.) are all eager to tap into. There's a gradual realisation that the AV scanner approach by itself doesn't defend against Nimda-style attacks.

This month analyst firm Gartner advised its customers to budget for extra security spending on Windows desktops (like better patch management and intrusion prevention) in the wake of the problems caused by the Sasser worm. So computer worms have become an extra tax burden on both end users and ISPs. Unless Microsoft lifts this burden through addressing the root causes - vulnerabilities in Windows - it risks making alternatives look increasingly attractive. ®

Related stories

Attack of the Profit-Killer Worms
P2P swamps broadband networks
Sasser ups cost of Windows - Gartner
Sasser creates European pandemonium
Blaster body count '8m or above' - MS
Blaster beats up British business
Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules

Related links

Worms gobbling ISP profits: The financial impact of attack traffic on European service provider networks, Sandvine white paper.


Other stories you might like

  • DigitalOcean tries to take sting out of price hike with $4 VM
    Cloud biz says it is reacting to customer mix largely shifting from lone devs to SMEs

    DigitalOcean attempted to lessen the sting of higher prices this week by announcing a cut-rate instance aimed at developers and hobbyists.

    The $4-a-month droplet — what the infrastructure-as-a-service outfit calls its virtual machines — pairs a single virtual CPU with 512 MB of memory, 10 GB of SSD storage, and 500 GB a month in network bandwidth.

    The launch comes as DigitalOcean plans a sweeping price hike across much of its product portfolio, effective July 1. On the low-end, most instances will see pricing increase between $1 and $16 a month, but on the high-end, some products will see increases of as much as $120 in the case of DigitalOceans’ top-tier storage-optimized virtual machines.

    Continue reading
  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims
    Fine-print crucially deemed contractual agreement as well as copyright license in smartTV source-code case

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    Continue reading
  • US brings first-of-its-kind criminal charges of Bitcoin-based sanctions-busting
    Citizen allegedly moved $10m-plus in BTC into banned nation

    US prosecutors have accused an American citizen of illegally funneling more than $10 million in Bitcoin into an economically sanctioned country.

    It's said the resulting criminal charges of sanctions busting through the use of cryptocurrency are the first of their kind to be brought in the US.

    Under the United States' International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEA), it is illegal for a citizen or institution within the US to transfer funds, directly or indirectly, to a sanctioned country, such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. If there is evidence the IEEA was willfully violated, a criminal case should follow. If an individual or financial exchange was unwittingly involved in evading sanctions, they may be subject to civil action. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022