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Security

Worms nibble away at ISP profits

The proliferation of worms on the Web is not just a nuisance for home and corporate users--it's becoming a financial burden on Internet service providers.

    Worms are proving to be both a financial and managerial headache for Internet service providers.

    Dealing with worms that travel over their networks could cost North American ISPs as much as $245 million in 2004, according to a study released Wednesday by peer-to-peer management company Sandvine. For service providers worldwide, the overall expense could reach $370 million. The totals include the cost of tactical response teams, swamped customer support resources, higher transit costs, and likely customer churn due to a loss of positive brand image over time.


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    Sandvine estimated that, on any given day, between 2 percent and 12 percent of traffic on service provider networks is malicious. Even on networks with good security, malicious traffic accounts for 5 percent of all data.

    In addition to dealing with event-related attacks triggered by worms like Slammer, Sobig and the recent MyDoom, ISPs have to contend with daily denial-of-service attacks and persistent low-level incursions from remnants of earlier worms still active on the PCs of residential subscribers.

    All told, worms have become an operational preoccupation for network managers, in addition to being a drag on profits, Sandvine said.

    "Worms exact a massive toll by forcing service providers to mobilize premium resources in order to quell attacks and protect the subscriber experience," Tom Donnelly, vice president of marketing and sales at Sandvine, said in a statement. "Uncovering the true costs and inefficiencies that worms impose on the broadband sector is crucial if we're going to identify appropriate solutions."