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Carriers ‘must work together’ to fight threats, ITW conference hears

19 May 2017 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Carriers cannot take on the insurmountable and widespread security challenges alone, given how interconnected and dependent they are on one another.

Panel 680.That was the message coming loud and clear from this week’s International Telecoms Week keynote panel, Working together in the pursuit of security.

Led by Michael Wheeler, EVP of NTT Communication, the panellists agreed that the industry has its work cut out for it in defending against the myriad of security and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that is gathering pace. 

The panellists were Alessandro Talotta, chairman and CEO of Sparkle; Pierre-Louis de Guillebon, CEO of Orange International Carriers; Jack Waters, CTO of Zayo; and PCCW Global chief marketing officer Mike van den Bergh.

Most these attacks haven’t been particularly sophisticated, Zayo’s Waters pointed out. He said: "What I find so interesting is that, when you get down to the technology that’s been used, it’s all pretty simple stuff. The sophistication of these attacks is pretty low. It’s mostly been brute force. As an industry we should really be prepared for the day when things become very sophisticated." 

The panel was unanimous in its opinion that the "bad guys" have had the edge in the fight against network threats. They have been more focused and impactful in their attacks than carriers have been in defending and mitigating against these risks. 

Collaboration is key to fortifying networks against attacks. Waters called for carriers to tackle the basic issues surrounding security such as authentic routing information and DNS.

Sparkle’s Talotta told the audience that a joint effort in securing and protecting networks will "bring the most efficiency" to benefit the entire industry. 

Van den Bergh of PCCW Global said that the sheer scale of connectivity among carriers is "both a strength and vulnerability". He urged carriers in the room to work together by sharing information and working across industry bodies. 

"It’s still early days. Questions like how do we automate this, how do we make sure information is shared quickly [should be addressed]," said Van den Bergh, who added that carriers have much to learn from similarly highly interconnected industries such as aviation and finance. 

He also said regulation of protection will be a crucial driver in tackling threat, but expected any implementation to be about five years away. "I’m not a big fan of regulation but the idea of having some amount of protocol around internet security is a reasonable one," said Waters. 

As network service providers and engineers of the network, carriers should have the upper hand in protecting their networks, the panel noted. "Operators are in the best position – you have the broadest landscape of the traffic," said Waters. 

Carriers will need to be prepared for the future by adapting to threats and providing relevant services. "Do you want to be in the communications business five years from now? If your answer is yes, then you have to [make security] part of your offering.

"At best you get really good at it. If you’re in the business of comms, it’s a growing capability – it has to be, otherwise you won’t be in the comms business." 

by Agnes Stubbs