AT&T plans CNN-style security channel


Security experts at AT&T are about to take a page from CNN's playbook. Within the next year they plan to begin delivering a video streaming service that will carry Internet security news 24/7, according to the executive in charge of AT&T Labs.

The service, which currently goes by the codename Internet Security News Network, (ISN) is under development at AT&T Labs, but it will be offered as an additional service to the company's customers within the next nine to 12 months, according to Hossein Eslambolchi, president of AT&T’s Global Networking Technology Services and AT&T Labs

ISN will look very much like Time Warner's Cable News Network, except that it will be broadcast exclusively over the Internet, Eslambolchi said. "It's like CNN," he said. "When a new attack is spotted, we'll be able to offer constant updates, monitoring, and advice."

The online video channel will feature interviews with AT&T security professionals, as well as experts from a variety of different organizations like network hardware vendors and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). All the while, news on the latest security vulnerabilities will stream across the bottom of the screen, much like the ticker symbols used by TV news networks, Eslambolchi said. "You will see... what viruses exist and where they came from," he said.

AT&T also plans to provide its own analysis of Internet security threats, culled from probes of AT&T's massive TCP/IP networks that can be used to help predict where and when attackers will strike with new exploits. "We extract intelligence and knowledge from the network and we do data analysis, data mining, and we do artificial intelligence on the network," Eslambolchi said. "We use that to create a cybersecurity index to see where these worm and viruses and phishing and pharming attacks are coming from."

While a number of information services and Web sites monitor Internet security, nobody has managed to develop a single point of contact that addresses all security concerns, said Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston. "There is really no good, consistent source for security information on the Internet," he said.

AT&T's streaming video service would be the first attempt to meet need by using video, Jaquith said. "This sounds like something pretty innovative to me. Personally, I'd check it out."

ISN is part of a larger research and development effort within AT&T to build new ways of protecting networks from attack. Called the "Cyber Security Defense Initiative," the effort has produced a number of technologies that the company is using to strengthen its TCP/IP network, Eslambolchi said.

Eslambolchi likened the effort to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as Star Wars. "My strategy in AT&T is the Star Wars concept because I am not in a cold war with these crooks anymore, I am in a nuclear war," he said. "Every time they form a nuclear missile, I have to know where they are going to hit me and I have to devise a new defense mechanism."

Using a Cyber Security tool called the Traffic Analysis System, AT&T was able to anticipate the Sasser worm outbreak 12 hours before it hit the Internet last year, Eslambolchi said.

Later this month, another Cyber Security technology called Cloaking will go live, making it much more difficult for attackers to hit AT&T's Internet backbone, Eslambolchi said. "None of the routers on our backbone will have any big Internet routes in them," he said. "Our routers will never be visible to these crooks or anybody else."

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