Companies target overload cyber-attacks

The total DDOS prevention market is predicted to grow to over $800 million by 2005.Tel Aviv-based WanWall is preparing to commercially launch the first comprehensive solution for what is potentially the most dangerous weapon in the arsenals of cyber-terrorists – …

The total DDOS prevention market is predicted to grow to over $800 million by 2005.Tel Aviv-based WanWall is preparing to commercially launch the first comprehensive solution for what is potentially the most dangerous weapon in the arsenals of cyber-terrorists – the massive distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks that flood a victim’s Internet server with huge amounts of traffic, overloading the system and causing the site to essentially crash.

In February 2000 such attacks crippled the networks of Yahoo, Ebay and Amazon.com, knocking these e-commerce giants offline for as long as several days, resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in losses. More recently – and much more ominously – similar attacks have were used to paralyze NATO computers in protest against the bombing of Serbia, and key Indian government Web sites to promote Kashmiri separatist goals.

While attacks against commercial Web sites may seem like a mere nuisance, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the DDOS threat has government officials concerned. A Pentagon advisory commission on terrorist threats faced by the U.S. said in recent report that the nation “must improve security against cyber attacks and enhance related critical infrastructure protection to ensure the security of essential government, financial, energy, and other critical sector operations against attack.”

The FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center, which on Nov. 2 issued a formal warning about the likelihood of new DDOS attacks, said in an October report that, “cyber protesters are becoming increasingly more organized and their techniques more sophisticated.”

The threat is so real that the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s technology development organization, has solicited companies to present their technologies at a December conference devoted solely to the threat of, and potential solutions to, DDOS attacks.

Companies and government institutions currently rely on a hodgepodge of anti-virus software, firewalls and other Internet security devices to respond to DDOS attacks. That’s about to change, though, as WanWall readies its suite of products that are designed specifically to protect routers and application servers from extreme overload conditions in wide-area networks (WANs).

In addition to government agencies, the products are targeted at Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Web-hosting companies, large enterprises and cellular telephone providers. Taken together, these represent an extremely attractive market opportunity for WanWall and other companies developing anti-DDOS solutions. According to a recent study by technology research firm IDC, the total DDOS prevention market will grow to over $800 million by 2005.

“We are ready with the right product just as the need for it increases significantly,” WanWall CEO Yuval Rachmilevitz said of the heightened awareness of the cyber-terrorist threat.

WanWall’s products are unique in that they divert the “bad” traffic away from a victim’s network while allowing legitimate traffic to reach the site. In addition, the key components of the system are not part of the network’s “critical path” and therefore do not degrade the normal operation of the network. Rather, when an attack is detected, the system automatically offloads the victim’s traffic from the network, cleans it, and then returns the clean traffic to the network, on its way to the intended destination.

For example, an attack on one ISP client has no impact on any others. In addition, WanWall’s solution is the only one capable of protecting ISPs’ and carriers’ networks from all known attacks, with minimal requirements from the network.

“The key idea of the system is not to add another device on the path, but rather to divert attack traffic away from it,” said Rachmilevitz.

The company, which was founded in 2000 by a team of top computer scientists from the Israeli academia and executives from some of Israel’s top technology companies, has significant backing from major venture capital firms, including Intel Capital and Israel’s Gemini Capital and Koor CVC. With these heavyweights in its corner, WanWall has the financial resources to see itself through and beyond the March 2002 release of its first products, and its first anticipated revenues.