UltraDNS introduced an Internet security shield on Tuesday that the company said would help thwart denial of service attacks against its customers and keep the Web available to hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
The privately-held company has partnered with major U.S. Internet service and network providers, including Yahoo Inc., Earthlink, and Time Warner Inc.'s America Online, to offer what it calls the DNS Shield that gives a more secure underpinning to the Internet.
Analysts called the shield a step forward for preventing denial of service attacks, where hackers harness thousands of "zombie" computers to knock offline Web sites or other computer systems. The attacks release an unrelenting data blitz that can cause huge financial losses and wreak havoc online.
UltraDNS Chief Executive Ben Petro said the shield is essentially a security blanket that works by creating a private network between service providers and the key directories that identify the locations of Web sites.
"Denial of service attacks are highly destructive and almost impossible to build true security around," Petro said. "There is very little in your control and the people launching them are getting better and better."
Early denial of service attacks targeted the U.S. government or high-profile online vendors like eBay. Over the past year, criminals have used denial of service attacks to extort payments from online gambling operations, banks and other businesses, or to attack competitors, experts say.
Lydia Leong, a research director at Gartner, said the extra layer of protection UltraDNS can offer by privatizing network protection with its Internet service provider customers should help it compete against rivals like Akamai Technologies Inc..
"This is a completely new thing," Leong said. "It improves UltraDNS's position," she said.
The company's shield bolsters security for the more than 20 country-specific domain-named Web sites it administers such as .uk and .org, offering better protection against a costly denial of service attack or major network failure.
The extra security also extends to Web sites of its customers such as Sharper Image Corp., Tommy Hilfiger Corp., Amazon.com and Oracle Corp. as well as Internet users whose service providers have partnered with UltraDNS.
The DNS Shield protects against these and other attacks by integrating UltraDNS servers directly into the infrastructure of its Internet service providers.
This creates totally protected environments where only authenticated user queries are answered and that eliminates the external data blitzes that can shut down networks and Web sites, the company said.
Steve Crocker, chairman of the security and stability advisory committee at ICANN, the group that oversees Internet domain names, called DOS attacks the biggest threat to the Internet because almost anybody can launch them from anyplace in the world but no easy solutions exist to stop them.
"It is a good step forward and a good thing to do until we have a complete solution to the denial of service problem," he said.