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DSL lines vulnerable to attack

18 Nov 09

For just $1000 a corporate spy can buy equipment to hack into a business’s DSL connection and access – even change – highly confidential information.
That’s according to Carl Purvis from, a company that’s affiliated with Datacraft. It has released a media statement today claiming the scale of network vulnerability is “enormous”, with 1.1 million DSL connections in New Zealand potentially at risk.
“Purvis believes this vulnerability should be of particular concern to the thousands of New Zealand companies that communicate daily data via corporate networks that utilise DSL as an access mechanism. These companies include banks, government departments and retailers as well as many of the country’s largest organisations,” the statement reads.
Security-Assessment general manager Doug Browne says the company is the first in the world to discover the security risk to DSL lines, and he believes they are acting responsibly by releasing the information to the media. He wouldn’t say if the company had taken its information to Telecom, the owner of the DSL infrastructure in New Zealand.
“We’ve disclosed to communities the research we have, I can’t tell you if we’ve directly dealt with Telecom or not.”
In the course of his research Purvis used a DSLAM and “home-built kit, a mini server platform” to hack into six different home and business connections. The media release claims this attack can be carried out by a malicious users parked outside a premise. Although Purvis didn’t try this, he believes it could be done by breaking into a juncture box.
Purvis describes the security risk as a “man in the middle” attack, where the spy physically attaches his or her own network infrastructure to a company’s DSL line. The attack then mimics the user’s ISP, forcing the user’s personal DSL modem to pass all traffic through an inspection tool running on a portable server platform.
“A malicious attacker could, for example, connect to a branch office of a large company, gain access to its customer database and use the information within that database to contact the customers with competing product offerings.”
Purvis says that at this stage there are no effective security controls which can be implemented en masse to reduce the risk from this attack.

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