Dubai: 5G, the new ultra-fast mobile network currently being rolled out worldwide, is forcing cybersecurity companies to increase their defences against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
Such attacks have long been a problem for digital companies, and occurs when compromised computers and smartphones are used to form a network, called a “botnet” that generates massive amounts of traffic aimed at a single target, usually a server or a website. This overwhelms the target’s ability to receive any other traffic, effectively shutting it down.
The rise of 5G means these attacks will get worse. Peter Adel, the territory manager for Netscout, a US provider of application and network managers products, said the company is scaling up the size of its DDoS defence cloud to combat the expected increase in these attacks.
“5G is an amazing technology that will add lot to humanity in general, but we need to look at a different angle, which is the risk that it is bring,” Adel said. Current attacks can generate gigabytes of data per second. The largest attacks seen so far can generate 1.7 terabytes of traffic per second.
With 5G, terabyte-sized attacks could become commonplace, with much larger attacks, easily 10 terabytes, also being possible. A 1.7 terabyte-sized attack is the rough equivalent of 17 4K (ultra-high resolution) movies being sent every second.
But defending against a DDoS attack doesn’t mean just stopping traffic. Security software has to process the incoming data to filter the legitimate traffic from the attack.
Adel said Netscout currently has a service that can defend against an attack as large as 11 terabytes a second, and he said further expansions are expected. But the problem for cybersecurity isn’t just the high-speed connection that 5G delivers.
Until just a few years ago, compromised computers were the main source of traffic in those attacks, but now more traffic is being generated through devices plugged into the internet, such as CCTV cameras, printers, IP phones and a variety of other devices. These devices as a whole are referred to as The internet of Things, or IoT, and their use it expected to increase with the adoption of 5G.
These devices can be compromised by hackers to generate malicious traffic.
“In 2016 we had the largest attack in history,” Adel said. “It was from a botnet we discovered called Mirai, which reach 800 [gigabytes], which was the biggest attack at that time. When we analysed the attack, the very interesting thing was the attack sources were IoT devices. “
That day was a turning point for the industry, Adel said, because the person behind Mirai released the code on the internet for other hackers to use.
“All the attackers out there used that code, and from that we got tens of varieties of that malware,” he said. He said his company is now working with internet-service providers to combat the threat from hacked IoT devices. Everyday Netscout sees 7.7 million new IoT devices added to the internet.