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HighNet ISP Boost Network Security to Protect Homes and Businesses

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 534
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Inverness-based UK ISP HighNet has announced that they’re deploying a new online security shield to help protect both their business and home broadband subscribers from cyber-attacks, specifically Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assaults.

DDoS attacks work by overloading a target server or IP / user with masses of data requests from multiple internet connected devices (malware hijacked computers / botnets etc.), which can cause the intended target to crash and they may then be unable to recover until the bad traffic stops. Such attacks may also expose other weaknesses that hackers can exploit (or even blackmail), such as happened to TalkTalk in 2015 (here).

Internet Service Providers frequently find themselves having to deal with such assaults on their customers and so HighNet has decided to take action. The ISP, which manages over 20,000 business lines, claims to be adopting the same unspecified technology as used by some of the largest global enterprises as part of a £6.5m investment into its network. For security reasons the provider hasn’t given too much detail.

The new system spots when an attack is starting and stops it from entering the network. After that it also sends an email alert to HighNet’s engineers so they can investigate further.

Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s Network Architect, said:

“There are a number of attack strategies that are employed, but the most basic and common one is to swamp the target with traffic so that it’s too busy to deal with legitimate business requests.

It’s like having a shop in the High Street and thousands of people come and jam up the doorway, meaning your customers can’t get in.

But our ethos is to ensure security, peace of mind and plain sailing for our customers’ telecoms. That’s why we are using world-class, highly sophisticated anti-DDoS protection which stops an attack getting through.

This acts like a security shield and stops the bad traffic coming in. It’s a very important investment in our network infrastructure.”

Apparently HighNet’s new system has blocked an attack every couple of days during the first two weeks in January 2018 and during that period they also stopped one of the biggest cyber-attacks so far on one of their customers in Aberdeen. By comparison conventional firewalls offer little or no defence against such DDoS attacks.

Duncan also used the opportunity to call on consumers to help in the fight by ensuring that they change the default passwords on any internet connected devices to something stronger; assuming the device or software actually allows you to set a strong password (sadly lots of online services still seem to impose a ridiculous 8-12 character limit on PWs).

Making sure you keep your software and broadband router up-to-date, while also using a good anti-virus or firewall, can similarly help to protect your network from unwanted malware (malicious software / viruses / trojans etc.).

Separately HighNet said they’d also been successful in tackling a number of voicemail fraud attempts on customers. Voicemail, or dial-through, fraud is a growing problem in the UK, costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud. It can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a holiday period.

The fraud occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers. Hackers can then obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.

HighNet has revealed that in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total. Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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