Headline — 01 July 2014 — by Adele Ramos

Monday morning server attack triggers more Internet problems

The nation’s premier telecommunications service provider, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), has indicated to us that for nearly two weeks now, it has been grappling with external attacks on its servers – attacks which have hampered customers’ ability to browse the Internet, with problems particularly on Google and Yahoo, which means that customers have even experienced delays receiving e-mails on these platforms.

Dr. Dionne Chamberlain Miranda, General Manager of Customer Services, told us while (Digital Subscriber Line ) DSL customers have been impacted, so too have 4G customers, who also use the data service platforms, and cable companies, such as CBC, which buy Internet from BTL.

Winston Aspinall, BTL’s General Manager of Network Services, said that there was another attack on the system at about 9:00 this morning, when they observed that the usage level on the Internet servers was very high, because the attacker was sending random invalid queries to the system, which slowed down things for all other users.

Why would anyone want to attack BTL’s servers? Miranda said that some people would be doing it for extortion, but that is not the case with BTL. She said that sport hackers exist around the world, who launch these kinds of attacks.

Kevin Hope, BTL’s Chief Technology Officer, said that just over two weeks or so ago, they began experiencing network attacks to some of their Internet servers.

“The attacks started out initially in a moderate way and since have intensified,” Hope said.

Aspinall said that they have been working on mitigating the attacks, and their aim is to be able to completely control them as quickly as possible.

He explained that the load on the server causes a “denial of service attack…” While he said that they had heard of this kind of attack previously, he could not recall them ever having trouble with it at BTL.

Aspinall said that apart from making changes to their server, they have identified and blocked more than 30 IP addresses that were coming from outside Belize, that were initiating the attack. They are also gathering information to provide to a US-based security emergency response team, which they hope would be able to further investigate who may have been responsible for the attacks.

Aspinall told us that they are upgrading to much larger servers with more resources, and they are also acquiring the latest software to be able to counter some of these more recent types of attack.

BTL’s IT and Internet Security Team have been fully engaged, assisted by an internal security consultant, the BTL reps told us.

“We take this issue very seriously, internally. We have pretty much all our tech experts who are well trained in network security and advanced security on board,” Hope said.

“We are very serious about dealing with it. Our customers mean a lot to us…” Miranda said.

A press release from BTL said that they are “in the process of upgrading some of our equipment which will allow us to implement increased security features that will deter the present and future attacks to our systems.”

It added that, “As soon as the replacement of the equipment is completed, scheduled for later tonight, we will provide… an update on our solutions.”

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