VeriSign To Spend More Than $100M on Infrastructure Upgrade

VeriSign Inc., which manages the ".com" and ".net" domain names registry and ensures Internet users can reach those locations, said it will spend more than $100 million in a massive infrastructure upgrade to combat a new wave of computer attacks and manage a surge in online activity.

Industry experts said VeriSign's investment comes at a critical time for the computing world. They pointed to hackers' powerful attacks this week on the computers that manage global Internet traffic as evidence of the mounting threat from online criminals.

Stratton Sclavos, VeriSign's chief executive officer, was scheduled to announce the upgrade Thursday in San Francisco at a security conference sponsored by RSA Inc., the security division of EMC Corp.

Sclavos said it's the company's largest investment in infrastructure upgrades and technology development. The overall investment is slated to boost capacity tenfold by 2010.

Sclavos said VeriSign, which operates two of the 13 so-called "root" servers that manage global Internet traffic, has an obligation to stay ahead of increasingly insidious and widespread Internet attacks.

"We're seeing a lot more sophistication in these attacks," he said. "And they're not just targeting thousands of users -- they're targeting hundreds of thousands or millions of users."

The Mountain View-based company said the expansion will increase its ability to process domain name system, or DNS, queries from 400 billion a day to more than 4 trillion a day. Those queries occur every time Internet users click on ".com" or ".net" Web sites or check e-mail and use applications that utilize those domain names.

VeriSign said it currently processes 24 billion such interactions daily, and it is preparing for dramatically higher activity as more users get online worldwide and conduct more of their business and leisure on the Web.

The investment also will boost bandwidth on VeriSign's systems from more than 20 gigabits per second to more than 200 gigabits per second.

The company promises reduced bottlenecks and ramped-up speed from infrastructure that is more broadly distributed around the world.

But Sclavos said security is also a key element of the upgrade, including the strengthening of security provisions and engineering improvements to bolster the ability to identify and track security threats around the globe.

"This is good for the whole Internet infrastructure," Sclavos said. "If the Internet's infrastructure fails, hundreds of billions of dollars in commerce and communications will be at risk. We can't afford for that to happen."

Will Stofega, a research manager with market researcher IDC, said the attacks this week that overwhelmed at least three of the 13 root servers highlight the growing threat posed by online criminals.

He said the last major round of large upgrades occurred during the dot-com boom and that VeriSign's investment could prod other companies into following suit.

"This is a very timely investment," Stofega said. "In a couple of years, we're going to start seeing some very, very serious types of attacks. If we don't start making these types of investments now, we're in trouble."


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