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Telcos tackle cyber threats with broadband filters

Telcos are tackling the rise in online scam cases and other cyber threats with the use of filters built into the broadband network to detect malicious software used by cyber criminals.

These network filters act as gatekeepers that prevent sensitive data that may be stored on Internet-connected devices in an office or home, such as laptops, mobile phones, healthcare devices and other trackers, from falling into the hands of hackers.

Singtel is the latest provider of broadband protection, which – for a monthly fee – serves as a first line of defence for users against malware, without having to install multiple security patches for each device on the same home network.

The filters typically block blacklisted sites and contacts as long as they were recorded on the network provider’s database. Accessing these sites can expose users to harmful content or allow viruses and ransomware into their home or business networks.

The Straits Times looks at Singtel’s and similar network filters that consumers can purchase to keep viruses and malicious content at bay.

Launched in February, Singtel’s Broadband Protect is the latest network filter on offer that scans Internet traffic on a user’s network to block any malicious or suspicious activity.

Users will be alerted to potentially malicious sites and can choose to unblock them on their My Singtel app if it is a link they trust.

The filter uses artificial intelligence (AI) to weed out malicious content based on a database of blacklisted addresses and suspicious phrases.

Singtel said it analyses billions of URLs and IP addresses, and adds several million threats to its database for filtering daily.

Broadband Protect is free for the first two months and just under $3 each month thereafter.

When asked why it decided to put this service behind a paywall, Ms Anna Yip, chief executive of Singtel’s Singapore consumer business, said: “We believe our customers should be given the choice to guard themselves with an extra layer of protection, given their surfing preferences.

“By activating Broadband Protect, they would authorise us to identify and block all malicious sites they may be inadvertently trying to access.”

Aimed mainly at businesses, M1’s Dynamic Fibre Protect prevents malicious content from being accessed through a similar service of blocking malicious sites.

Users will be barred from visiting sites known to contain malware and other threats that are security risks to an office network, said M1. The service costs $10 a month.

SecureNet is the region’s first consumer broadband with built-in security and blocks blacklisted malicious content with the help of cyber-security firm Palo Alto Networks.

SecureNet has three key functions: to detect viruses and threats in programmes and files; to catch spyware that is collecting data without the user’s consent; and to alert the user to system flaws that an attacker might exploit.

It comes free for the first three months, after which it costs $7.99 a month.

Launched in April 2021, the service is aimed at general consumers who have shifted to working from home and are increasingly being targeted by hackers, said ViewQwest chief marketing officer Jurist Francisco-Gamban.

He added that almost 70 per cent of the Singapore Internet service provider’s residential customers continued with the service after the complimentary period ended.

The service has seen an average quarterly growth rate of 40 per cent since its launch till December 2022, said ViewQwest.

StarHub does not have a broadband filter service, but instead offers a virtual private network (VPN) service called CyberProtect that weeds out cyber threats on up to six devices.

The network will block blacklisted sites from being accessed by connected devices, and provides parental controls to keep harmful content away from young users and control their screen time.

For a fee that starts from $5.04 a month, the service’s VPN also encrypts a device’s connection to the Internet and masks its real IP address, preventing prying eyes from spying on the user’s online activities and finding ways to hack the device. Straits Times

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