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Telecom giants join forces against hackers

Group of well-known telecom and networking companies, including BT, Cisco, EarthLink and MCI, band together to share data on hackers.

High-profile telecom and networking companies are banding together to crack down on hackers.

The new Fingerprint Sharing Alliance hopes to help its members, which include British Telecommunications, Cisco Systems, EarthLink, MCI and NTT Communications, more effectively share information on individuals responsible for launching online attacks. Other organizations involved in the collaboration, which was announced Monday, include Asia Netcom, Broadwing Communications, Verizon Dominicana, XO Communications and the University of Pennsylvania.

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Members of the Fingerprint Sharing Alliance will automatically send one another data on computer hackers as they observe or experience new attacks. By immediately alerting other communications companies when they're being threatened, members of the group hope they can more effectively guard against online attacks and infrastructure hacks that cross network boundaries.

Arbor Networks is helping to spearhead the effort. The Lexington, Mass.-based company, which specializes in network threat detection and monitoring tools, will provide the technology used by the group's members to share emerging attack data. By helping the communications giants rapidly distribute information on hackers, the security company said it can aid in blocking attacks closer to the source.

Mark Sitko, vice president of MCI's Security Services Product Management group, said the Fingerprint Sharing Alliance will quickly provide an "unparalleled view" into new security threats as they surface around the globe. Sitko also promised that MCI will bring significant antihacking firepower to the table.

At least one industry watcher has also endorsed the group's efforts. Jim Slaby, senior analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group, said that as online attacks become more sophisticated, industrywide collaboration is becoming a more important tool in stopping criminals.

"We're seeing more technology-savvy criminals trying to make money through denial-of-service extortion schemes," Slaby said in a statement. "Service providers that are cooperating by sharing attack fingerprints are helping mitigate these threats more quickly and closer to the source, thus making the Internet a more secure place."