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Mobile networks ‘easy’ targets for cyber attacks

KUWAIT CITY, June 7: Mobile networks in Kuwait have evolved by leaps and bounds in the past handful of years, particularly as mobile users continue to gobble up as much mobile network capacity as possible.

Mobile data usage is absolutely ubiquitous today with the advent of always-on connectivity, the pull to constantly ‘check in’ on various social networks and applications, and to be able to do access the mobile network at anytime, at lightening fast speeds and with zero downtime.

This trend is expected to continue as successive generations of more capable mobile networks and devices and compelling applications emerge. A

nd crucially, data services are the only way Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Kuwait will offset long-term declines in their voice/SMS service revenues. But this shift to data-centric service delivery also imposes added operational challenges in maintaining that ‘always on, fast — and secure’ mobile broadband performance and availability that subscribers have come to expect.

Mahmoud Samy, Regional Director, Middle East, Russia and CIS at Arbor Networks says that the ‘secure’ piece of that equation is a major concern for mobile operators in the country today with the influx of attacks targeting MNOs than ever before. While mobile malware has been around for a decade and is certainly a concern, it’s far less of a concern in comparison to the debilitating effect a large Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack would have on these networks.

Add to that the fact that MNOs tend to struggle with proper visibility into malicious activity on their networks and the problem grows quickly. To further illustrate the problem — the responses from mobile operators within Arbor’s 9th annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report are eyeopening:

■ 20% — Suffered a customer-visible outage due to a security incident, while 25% don’t know if they had such outages due to a lack of visibility.

■ 63% — Do not know what proportion of subscriber devices on their networks are participating in botnets or other malicious activities.

■ 25% — Saw DDoS attacks targeting their mobile users, RAN, back-haul or packet core, but 29 percent cannot detect such attacks due to a lack of visibility.

■ 25% — Witnessed DDoS attacks impacting their mobile Internet (Gi) infrastructure, while 25% lack the visibility to detect such attacks. So the ‘why’ in ‘Why are DDoS attacks increasingly focused on mobile networks?’ question is obvious.

■ It’s become an ‘easy’ target — how can you mitigate a threat that you cannot see?

■ There are loads of DDoS attack tools and services readily available to attackers today

 ■ And, with more ways ‘in’ to the mobile network via social networking technology, attacks against mobile networks (via mobile devices) is very attractive. Interestingly, this is precisely how it all started on the fixed Internet years ago — bad actors started to target the Internet as a means of constructing attacks that were destructive, caused outages, and seeped into every facet of the network before long.

The same is happening on mobile wealth of previously untapped opportunity. DDoS attacks targeting mobile networks tends to happen in one of two ways today: Network infrastructure and services: DDoS attacks can have a direct impact on targeted infrastructure and services by increasing traffic volume/session loads that reduce capacity and impair performance. Internet-originated attacks have been around for a number of years.


By: Arbor Networks

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