Ubiquitous broadband poses problem for cyber security

Australian CeBIT conference told of dangers

Symmetric, high speed, ubiquitous broadband will lead to a big increase in cyber crime, according to a cyber security expert.

Speaking at the CeBIT Australia 2010 conference this week, cyber intelligence firm Cyveillance vice president Eric Olson told audiences an explosion in broadband speeds and access — and the inherent increases in wireless access and peer-to-peer (P2P) content services — would result in an increase in bot-infected computers, targeted data theft and general cyber crime.

"It turns out that in an environment where slower connections and, in some cases, slower machines are prevalent, it's kind of an odd defence," Olson said. "The robot zombie army that's out there doesn't want you... [you're] no good to the bot-herder if you're a on a slow machine or a slow connection."

Instead, he said those conducting cyber crimes and bot-based attacks would begin to target high-speed environment to use in attacks. This could be facilitated by an increase in P2P services, as hackers proliferate malware-infected content through services like BitTorrent, rather than through more traditional means like phishing sites and spam mail.

While the regular risks remain for average consumers, Olson said targeted attacks on specific companies and data would only increase as hackers are afforded an increased ability to gather specific knowledge of employees through social networking and other means. The cyber security expert offered existing examples of similar attacks, revealing leaked information from secret US government documents as well as bot-based attacks on Google, Exxon and Adobe.

"Upload speeds... have interesting applications because data exfiltration gets a lot faster," he said. As users purchase faster computers to complement the faster bandwidth, Olson pointed to the lessened impact on the user experience, ensuring that such data theft goes unnoticed until it is too late.

Symmetric download and upload speeds on broadband connections are largely offered to businesses rather than residential consumers in Australia. However, the increased upload speeds offered on some fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) resident services —such as those revealed by iPrimus for the stage 1 national broadband network (NBN) sites in Tasmania — are already a marked increase over the 1Mbps upload speeds currently offered by ADSL2+ service providers.

Faster upload speeds arguably have greater potential for high bandwidth applications such as high-definition, multi-party videoconferencing and uploading large files to cloud services, but Olson's implications and predictions reveal the other side of the proverbial coin in the lead-up to the first NBN services becoming available.

Olson claimed he was a huge proponent of ubiquitous broadband access, saying the potential increases in cyber crime as a result of projects like the NBN were the "dark lining in a silver cloud".

"There has to be a set of rules and guidelines for how things can be done best practice, to minimise — you can't eliminate — these risks."

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Tags cebitEric OlsonCyveillanceSecurity ID

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