"Ethical" attacks on companies

Auckland-based Internet specialist LANscape Limited is performing 'ethical break-ins' to convince client companies of the need for greater Internet security.

Auckland-based Internet specialist LANscape Limited is performing "ethical break-ins" to convince client companies of the need for greater Internet security.

IT managers are reportedly commissioning the work from LANscape to convince their senior management to invest in security. Almost 10 have been done in the past few months.

This follows a worldwide rash of cyber attacks and viruses, causing havoc for many organisations.

LANscape managing director Jeff Herbert says Kiwi bosses believe the data is not valuable, their systems are safe, and Internet security is not worth the cost.

However, Herbert says when systems are hacked and brought down, the cost to a company can be huge.

"A system can take anything up to five days to get up and running again, and will usually take at least a day," he says.

Many companies, he says, are waiting to be hit, just like they are waiting to be burgled before installing a security alarm.

However, Herbert says, LANscape's "ethical break-ins" are now convincing clients to invest.

"The last break-in we performed took us only six hours to acquire the company’s administrator password. We have broken into an unsecured site in as little as two minutes.

"When we show clients how easy it is to penetrate their system and change data it becomes a pretty convincing argument," he says.

But Herbert says even secured sites can be breached.

"We also test sites with security by gaining basic information from clients, that a serious hacker could reasonably obtain, and seeing how far we can go.

“Frequently the security has not prevented us from breaking in. It is important that companies realise their security is only as good as the people installing it," he says.

Tim Hemingway, New Zealand manager for Cisco Systems, which provides security hardware for LANscape, agrees Kiwi companies underestimate the threat of Internet crime.

"Security is becoming increasingly important as more people become computer proficient and there is greater traffic on the Internet. As more companies look to do business over the net, the need for tighter security is paramount," he says.

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