May 29, 2012, 8:53 PM — Depending on how unscrupulous your business practices are, a denial-of-service attack can give you a competitive advantage. From keeping competitors offline to engaging in outright extortion, there are organizations (some more obviously criminal than others) now using DDoS attacks to make big money.
For those on the receiving end, DDoS attacks are expensive. If you want to avoid losing a lot of money, it pays to be insured. And it's better to get your protection from the good guys.
Corero Network Security is a company that fits into a small but growing sector of the information security community. It looks at ways to combat the increasingly sophisticated -- and often untraceable -- denial-of-service attacks targeting organizations of all kinds. The company says the bulk of the attacks today are not the spectacular, ideology-driven kinds that grab headlines.
"Most of the attacks, we know, involve things like unfair competition," says Neil Roiter, research director of Corero Network Security Inc. "In other words, another company in your own market, your own sector, hitting you to knock you offline, to chase away customers, to lure customers to their own site."
Roiter adds that when Corero surveyed companies in the U.S. subjected to DDoS attack, more than half believed they had been targeted by the competition. Then there are other attacks: ones that are essentially information age protection rackets.
"It's like the old protection racket where guys come into your shop, your store, like in the movies and they say, 'You have a nice place here. It would be a shame if something bad happened to it. Or happened to you.'
"You'll get an email or phone call saying, 'Pay us $50,000 by such and such a time, transfer it to this account, or we're going to knock your site offline.'"
At first glance, Canada appears to have avoided the scourge of these sorts of "professional" DDoS attacks. David Black, manager of the RCMP technology crime branch's cyber crime fusion team, says he hasn't encountered many cases of DDoS extortion in Canada, though the threat is certainly present.
"Any company is vulnerable to this, in a sense," says Black. "If their business depends on 24/7 network connection, extortion could be a reality."
He adds that it's "very rare" to catch a company knocking down a competitor's site in Canada. But again, he cautions that this doesn't mean they won't occur in the future.
"We are at high risk, don't get me wrong," Black says. "Just the examples aren't there."