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Cyberattacks Up 50% By 2010, VeriSign Says

As long as cybercrime continues to grow as an industry, don't count on malicious attacks to abate on their own, the company's CEO says.

VeriSign's unveiling Thursday of Project Titan, which seeks to expand the capacity of its global Internet infrastructure by 10 times by 2010, will be both a blessing and a bane to Internet users, creating a wider freeway for access to revolutionary new multimedia content while at the same time creating a greater number of targets for malicious attackers.

Cyberattacks will increase by 50% between now and Project Titan's completion, VeriSign CEO and chairman Stratton Sclavos said Thursday during his RSA Conference keynote. As long as cybercrime continues to grow as an industry, don't count on malicious attacks to abate on their own. "Where the money goes, so do the threats," he added.

While it's easy, not to mention good business, for security vendors to predict gloom and doom for the IT industry, Sclavos' point was punctuated by Tuesday's massive denial-of-service attack against the 13 servers that help manage worldwide Internet traffic. This was a sophisticated attack consisting of "very, very large packets," Sclavos said. "Every request [made by those packets] was bogus, and every [packet] source was false."

Even worse, it was a sophisticated attack that "was very simple to deploy and scales phenomenally well," Sclavos said. "In fact, we're convinced that the perpetrators didn't even know how well it scales."

But the VeriSign CEO pointed the finger at himself and his colleagues in the security space, rather than dwelling on the attackers.

"Shame on all of us in this room who are security vendors," he said. "If we force our customers to choose between ease of use and better security, they will always choose simplicity. We have the security technology and have had it for years. Yet our consumers feel more vulnerable today than they've ever felt."

Still, it's not impossible for organizations to beat back the bad guys. Sclavos pointed to PayPal, one of the companies most targeted by attackers, as a company that has had some security success because it's taken the threats seriously.

"They are using (Extended Validation SSL Certificates) to be sure users don't make a phishing site for PayPal's site," he added.

Microsoft announced that it has enabled support for these certificates in Internet Explorer 7. When a user visits a site with a valid EV SSL Certificate, IE 7 alerts the user to the available identity information by turning the background of the address bar green and displaying identity information. Twelve certificate authorities, including VeriSign, Cybertrust, and Entrust, issue EV SSL Certificates.

Certificate authorities won't issue EV SSL Certificates without first making the organization go through a stringent sign-up process, says Michael Barrett, PayPal's chief information security officer. In addition, PayPal next week will begin offering certain clients, businesses, and possibly those who've been the victim of past fraud pass code-generating tokens for securely logging on to their PayPal accounts.

Barrett admits there's no easy way to keep bogus e-mailers (known as phishers) and other bad elements at bay, but that's no excuse for not trying, even if it means forcing cybercriminals to change their tactics. "There's no silver bullet," he says. "It's how much lead can you get in the air from a shotgun."

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