Security demo hacked at confab

September 22, 2005

By Daniel Terdiman

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.--Nand Mulchandani knows from network security. His company, Redwood City, Calif.-based Determina, makes a piece of software called the "Vulnerability Protection Suite," which is designed to defend "networks from malware that exploits their most common security vulnerabilities."

In other words, the package keeps the bad guys off Determina's clients' networks and makes it safe for those clients to connect their networks to the Internet.

And that's a good thing. After all, said Mulchandani, Determina's vice president of marketing and business development, "The Internet is a radioactive toxic waste dump."

But on Tuesday at the Demofall 2005 conference here, Determina may have wished it had a little bit of network protection of its own.

As the company was onstage showing off its suite--in a demonstration that would mimic an outside attack on a network--a real-life denial-of-service attack hit and effectively knocked the demo offline.

According to Mulchandani, the Determina demo was being performed across a network that had no firewall--"all the machines were hanging off the Internet"--when what appeared to be an automated attack came down the pipe and swamped the network with outside traffic. In the end, the company was able to complete its presentation, though without having been able to showcase all the features of the product.

Determina wasn't the only company whose demonstration was affected by the attack Tuesday afternoon--a day organizers had already spent scurrying about trying to overcome problems caused by a massive thunderstorm early that morning--but none of the others were in the middle of unveiling a package designed to protect networks from outside attack.

It may sound like fiction, but you can't make this kind of stuff up.

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