Comcast warns of cyber security threat posed by botnets; network will never be 'completely secure'

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Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) will never be able to completely secure its broadband network from cyber security threats such as botnets that can "turn ordinary users into unwitting participants in global criminal enterprises," VP of Internet systems engineering Jason Livingood plans to testify at a House hearing Wednesday.

Jason Livingood, Comcast

Livingood

While Livingood details Comcast's efforts to protect its 18 million high-speed Internet customers from cyber security threats through software such as its "Constant Guard" protection suite, he warns that it is difficult to keep pace with the number of new threats ISPs face each day. "There is no one silver bullet or quick fix, especially because the risks and threats change so frequently and dramatically as new technology is developed and as bad actors in cyberspace continue to innovate," Livingood said in prepared testimony for a cyber security hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Executives from AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS) and Research In Motion are also scheduled to testify.

Livingood said botnets are one of the largest threats, noting that they are a major source of identity and credit card theft. About 10 percent to 15 percent of American households are likely infected with botnets, Livingood said, citing estimates from Internet security companies. "Bots are also used to conduct massive Distributed Denial of Service attacks, steal user names and passwords, send spam, and facilitate other malicious and criminal activity," Livingood says in his prepared testimony.

The Comcast security expert also warned that Web surfers can infect their computers simply by visiting a site that uses an advertising network that shows an ad that has an embedded malware code. "The advertisement need only be displayed rather than clicked for an infection to occur," Livingood says.

Comcast, the nation's largest ISP, is attempting to protect its subscribers with its free Constant Guard security software, according to Livingood. It includes the Norton Security Suite, anti-phishing and anti-spyware technology, secure data backup and sharing, identity protection, tools that fight botnets and privacy protection tools.

The MSO is also using Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSEC) to help ensure the authenticity of sites that its Xfinity cable modem customers visit. Livingood said all 18 million Xfinity customers use DNSSEC-validating DNS servers, and that roughly 5,000 domain names owned by Comcast have been cryptographically signed.

For more:
- read Livingood's testimony (PDF)

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