Firms urged to guard against cyber attacks

Sept. 1, 2003
United States corporations are being told to increase their Internet security efforts as the number and variety of various cyber attacks continues to

United States corporations are being told to increase their Internet security efforts as the number and variety of various “cyber attacks” continues to grow.

According to Lynnfield MA-based Sophos, an anti-virus software maker, cyber-attacks are becoming more common so businesses should take steps to better protect themselves.

“August will be remembered as one of the worst months in the history of computer security,” said Sophos senior security analyst Chris Belthoff. “A series of different viruses have bombarded computer systems around the globe, culminating in the newest member of the Sobig family, which swamped Internet e-mail traffic.”

He said Sophos had to analyze and protect against 778 new viruses in August alone, bringing the total number of viruses it now protects against to 84,277.

Former US Marine intelligence officer Dan Verton said many things Americans take for granted — such as electricity, the Internet, the 911 system, and ATMs — rely on computer networks that are increasingly dependent on each other. That creates a situation where one network failure can have a ripple effect on other systems, he said.

In his new book, Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism, Verton also said disrupting the US cyber infrastructure is of interest to international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda.

Those stark facts have convinced many companies to increase Internet security resources. According to Framingham MA-based consulting firm IDC, worldwide spending on anti-virus software increased 31% to $2.2 billion in revenues last year over 2001 and is predicted to reach $4.4 billion in 2007.

“The recent onslaught of viruses and worms such as Blaster, Nachi, and Sobig highlight the need for anti-virus products, and more importantly, the need to update services,” said Brian Burke, research manager for IDC's security products service.

Burke said the rapid infection by these new worm and virus attacks means slow responses will cripple most customer environments because they will not be able to get ahead of the initial infection and the far more serious re-infections.

A recent IDC survey of 325 US firms found that 82% have experienced cyber attacks with 30% of them reporting that, while the attack was detected, it was not repelled immediately.

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