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Bad Behavior on the 'Net - Who Pays the Bandwidth Bill? 654

rakolam asks: "I am involved with network management in the hosting department of a fairly large ISP. Constantly we have customers who dispute inbound bandwidth spikes and demand service credits on their burstable connections. Events such as the Slammer Virus literally have everyone knocking on their salesperson's door at the end of the billing cycle. My position is that the internet is a public space, and by placing themselves in that space, one has to realize the consequences (and the implications of burstable billing). I'd like Slashdot's perspective on this. Should ISP's ultimately eat the costs of malicious behavior? Is the customer ultimately responsible for the bandwidth they've generated, regardless if it's desired or not? Is this a new frontier for insurance companies?"
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Bad Behavior on the 'Net - Who Pays the Bandwidth Bill?

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  • by rdewald ( 229443 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:06PM (#5452946) Homepage Journal
    What happens to you if someone runs an extension cord from your house or if you spring an unknown water leak? You get a huge bill and you fix the problem. How is this different?
    • by prator ( 71051 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:11PM (#5453017)
      Not a very good analogy. More like you have an electrical socket outside your house, and you have a sign that says, "Use me". Then you get upset when the circus comes to town and powers everything off your socket.

      • by Fishstick ( 150821 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:17PM (#5453113) Journal
        Yep, I was thinking along the same lines. It's like having a drinking fountain outside your house for public use - you are expecting amybe 10-20 gallons monthly as people stop by and have a quick sip. Then, you get all pissed when your water bill comes and 5,000 gallons show up when the circus comes to town and all the clowns have used your water fountain to fill all their water baloons. :-)

        Do you then go ask for a credit from the utility because of the excessive/unexpected use?

        • by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:28PM (#5453249)
          No but what I do expect is to be able to set a turn off point for my site when bandwidth goes too high. Here's a for instance. I wasnted to put up a smallish site at WazooWeb (yes I actually clicked on a /. banner) for 6.95 a month it didn't seem like a bad deal, and 10GB of bandwidth seems more than enough. But what if I get /.'ed, or something equally remote happens that blows me over the limit. I want a way to say, once I'm at my limit shut me down for the month, unless I explicitly come in and say go ahead... I'll take the extra charges. It's not like I even want it on be default, I'm perfectly ok with setting the threshold myself.

          Of course my small scale situation may not translate to a large business account.

          • There are several Apache mods that will either limit total useage or shut off files on the end of large spikes.

            The original question though is what should the ISP have done. IMO they should have firewalled access to the affected ports and then split the cost.

            • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @10:36PM (#5455243) Homepage
              Firewalling doesn't solve the problem. By the time the packet reaches the ISP's customer, it's already been counted. Whether the customer replies to the request or denies it with negative feedback, or just ignores it - doesn't matter - it's already been passed through the ISP on the way to reach the customer, so they've already counted it.

              If you hold the customer responsible, then people angry with that person can just drive up that person's cost by choosing to flood him.

              • So hold whoever LAUNCHES an attack responsible..
                If you flood, you pay
                If you get hacked and your machine used for flooding, you pay (afterall its your own fault your machine was insecure)

                If you GET flooded, then you take it up with your isp and take action against the culprit.
          • by vano2001 ( 617789 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:04PM (#5453595)
            There is mod_throttle for Apache which can be set up along with some scripting to activate/deactivate a virtual host. I have done this myself for a webhosting company. The problem is that the web hosting companies decide it is better not to have this option and force clients to charge the extra bandwidth. It is a business policy and not a technical impediment.
          • >my small scale situation may not translate to a large business account.

            Exacly. Not even a large account. If you shut me off for the rest of the month, I've got a problem. I need to have my site accessible. I just want to pick and choose which access (legitimate) I want to pay for. ;-)

            Someone else said the ISP should firewall off the "bad" traffic. Does the ISP then complain to its upstream provider about that bandwidth? Someone has to either pass on the cost of that bandwidth or eat it.

            Where do you draw the line? You could argue that your ISP has no business charging you for inbound UDP packets to SQL server port (1443 was it?) since you expect to only provide http on port 80. Next month there is another virus/worm that causes another spike, but this time by flooding the net with bogus TCP traffic on port 80. Now do you try to get your ISP to take that off your bill because it was from a virus/worm?

            • by -Surak- ( 31268 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:52PM (#5454008)
              Presumably this refers to hosted server connections, rather than a simple virtual web server account. For this sort of connection, I would want a true Internet connection, instead of some firewalled lan port. I would be very upset if the ISP did ANY filtering on my connection without my specific request or knowledge. It's none of the ISP's business what I do with my end of the network cable (aside from spam policies) - they don't need to know if I'm running a web server, SQL server, or some custom game server that happens to use UDP/1443.

              Most colo providers I'm familiar with bill on 95th percentile bandwidth, which means that they drop the top 5% of samples (typically 5-minute average) and bill you for the bandwidth of the highest remaining sample. This means that you can absorb short-term heavy bandwidth spikes without being charged, up to about a day and a half worth of time per month.

              In any case, the ISP should have no way of knowing WHAT traffic creates the bandwidth spike, unless I specifically request that they monitor my port. Of course, smart ISPs will exploit these incidents by offering firewalling services as a value-add, even if it's just stateless filtering at the router, as a way for customers to "insure against unexpected traffic spikes from virus/worm activity".

              Of course, if I was paying for virtual web service, rather than a server colo and bandwidth fee, I should not be charged for non-web traffic, and I doubt any ISP would have the balls to do so.
        • Do you then go ask for a credit from the utility because of the excessive/unexpected use?

          For unexpected use, of course you can't demand a freebie, since it is understood that the fountain is for public use. However, suppose someone presses the button on the fountain and holds it for several hours without drinking anything. This seems like theft, to me.

          Any service offered to the public has certain bounds within which it is expected to be used. People should have the authority to prevent others from abusing their services.

          If someone is DOSing me, and I have no authority or technical capacity to stop their attack, then why should I pay for someone else's criminal behavior? If I immediately pull the plug on my network, call up the ISP to inform them, yet the packets still come cascading in... I have acted in good faith to do everything possible.

          The current situation is like being able to watch the guy pressing the button on the fountain, and paying for the water, yet not being able to do anything to stop it. How can that be *my* fault?

        • by dhogaza ( 64507 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @08:25PM (#5454323) Homepage
          The City of Portland Water Bureau will forgive excess water bills due to undetected leaks or the like if you show that you've fixed the problem. Often leaks aren't detectable and a large water bill is the first clue the homeowner sees (western Oregon is very wet, water water everywhere)
      • by jazman_777 ( 44742 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:52PM (#5453500) Homepage
        Then you get upset when the circus comes to town and powers everything off your socket.

        Holy cow, that circus next door, it's not free?!

    • by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:15PM (#5453080)
      Bad Analogy. The poster says customers dispute INCOMING bandwidth spikes. So the analogy would be more along the lines of someone sending a huge power surge through your lines un-announced and un-requested, then the power company attempting to charge you for it.

      I lean towards the consumer not having to pay, considering they didn't request the traffic and are therefore not resonsible for it.
      • by DanEsparza ( 208103 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:53PM (#5453511) Homepage
        I completely disagree. Bandwidth is analagous to people using roads (network connections). If roads are heavily used, they must be maintained, or they fall into disrepair. If network connections are heavily used, ISP's need capital to get bigger (or more) connections so that certain service levels can be maintained.

        We don't live in an (entirely) communist world. We don't get to pass out resources indiscriminately. We have a fixed amount of resources, and as with any case of supply and demand, the person holding the supply can (and should) charge for using the resource. In the case of network bandwidth, the resource is not obvious, but it is still tangible: It is network equipment and opportunity costs.

        • Pick your analogy.

          You can also use the analogy of junk faxes. Your machine is set up and the number is available for anyone to call, but people can be prohibited from using your resources by sending you junk faxes.

          Though with out specific laws it probably comes down to contract and at that point it is probably buyer beware, whether you agree with it or not.
    • It's different because stealing electricity is, in most place, a crime. If you can prove that your neighbor used your electric line to power his house, some sort of authority would go after the other party. Granted, your only recourse may be in small claims court, but you would still have a way to recoup your losses.

      A virus or other Internet contaigon could come from somewhere waaaay outside your jurisdiction. If some server in China is constantly bombarding your incoming pipe with virus activity, bogus web requests, port scanning, etc. then you're stuck footing the bill.

      With all of this said, I think ISPs should provide some sort of insurance to their burstable customers. You could get so much bandwidth per billing cycle but leave room for error in the event your customer can verify that they received "hacker traffic" or somesuch. Perhaps even build in clauses that say the end-user is required to notify the ISP of problematic access within a certain timeframe, that way they can take action further up the pipe to block said packets.

      If a user, however, comes up at the end of the month and complains about lots of unwanted traffic, well, hire an admin to look after your connection and come see us next month.
      • by luzrek ( 570886 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:47PM (#5453452) Journal
        build in clauses that say the end-user is required to notify the ISP of problematic access within a certain timeframe

        This would be like dealing with stolen credit cards. When a credit card is stolen the owner gets 24 hours to report it and is only liable for $50. If they wait up to 72 hours, they are only liable for $500. I'm not sure what happens after that. This system protects both the credit card company and the credit card user by insuring prompt reporting of stolen credit cards and fraudulent activity (and can hopefully catch the crook). This system has worked fairly well.

        The implications for ISPs and their customers for a similar system would be pretty interesting. The customers who actively monitor their network traffic and help to head off problems would be rewarded by being less liable for damage, while ISPs would be free to give the full bill to those who ignore their bandwidth usage. This system should lead to lower costs for the better customers and discurage neglegance possibly leading to better service for all.

    • This is incoming bandwidth - that is, the customer may be fully patched, but the bursts are coming from outside the network. This would be more analagous to the electric company hitting sending 220V (or 440v) to your house for two days. Who's at fault, them for allowing a change in what is coming down the pipe, or you for not protecting each piece of equipment in your house? At best, it's a combination. The electric company should know better than to give you more than you know you need, and you should not rely on someone else to protect your gear.

      The only way to really take care of this is to put a firewall in front of the box doing the metering. If the firewall rules are written properly, things like the MSSQL bug won't make it past the firewall.
    • by ralico ( 446325 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:36PM (#5453343) Homepage Journal
      Since the original poster mentions bandwidth insurance, I think it might be useful to talk about health care systems for comparison.
      In health care, you have a pool of people, really sick, regular, and extra healthy (hold the fries)

      As long as there are not too many sick people, the cost can be spread over everyone in the pool.

      But when there are too many sick people, it does not work, and someone is left to pay the bill.

      But as rdewald draws a comparison to utlities, I agree that bandwidth should be more like a utility.
      But frankly, it is at least an order of magnitude easier for someone to maliciously use your bandwitdh than use your water or electricity, or even your POTS line. You have to be physically present there. Obviously in cases of bandwidth theft or malicious consumption, that is not true.

      Lastly, to go out on a limb, IMHO, personal computer and network technology is still not ready for home use. We would really like to think do, but it seams that we are still at the point where autos were in the hand crank era. You gotta be or be related to a mechanic to own one. They are still really complicated machines that we geeks love. Now that is improving in some areas, such as open source operating system integrity and useability, but worse in others as there are few end users who really understand security issues. Can we draw an analogy to health safety with health care/ health insurance? You tell me.

      Well, thats my 2 bits.
    • The problem with the analogy is twofold. In fact you can consider two nice examples illustrating the cases

      1. If someone floods my house with water or punctures my pipe, they pay not me.
      2. If the gas company has a leak and blows my house up they dont get to bill me for the gas (although famously gas companies have tried to do this to people!)

      If you bill people for incoming traffic you have a problem, and its going to make a nasty mess when it hits, be it by losing all your customers, whatever.

      If you bill people for outgoing traffic with bursting do your customers a favour, you've got traffic shaping so let them set maximum billing costs. The customer can relax a lot more if they know the "worst case bill" for each month and suffer nothing more than loss of burst when its exceeded.
      You can even have sales phone them and try and sell them more burst bandwidth. All of a sudden your caring ISP wants to offer you some extra options instead of customers phoning the evil bastards at the ISP who scammed them, two perceptions for the same thing. The difference is the customer has the control so feels happy

      This is the same whole reason that an ISP who shapes customers who exceed a bandwidth cap right down does better than one who goes around cutting people off. Given then 1/2 speed at 75% usage, and 28.8 at 100% and they are normally happier than getting the boot.

  • by FirstManOnMoon ( 613282 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:07PM (#5452966)
    Every ISP should base charges only on how much traffic you send. That would give people a real incentive to keep their systems patched and secured. You wouldn't have to pay a ridiculous amount if you're on the receiving end of a DOS. You would have to pay if your systems get hacked or catch a worm though.

    Alas, unless every ISP participated, this model wouldn't work well.
    • But then you're not charging people if they're an incoming warez server, or they congest your network downloading mp3s.

      When I thought of getting a burstable line from Digex, their billing process was to bill my incoming/outgoing data rate based on my peak usage EXCLUDING the top 10% of our usage time. That way if there's a usage spike (or a SQL Slammer spike), then it would be considered an anomaly and wouldn't be billed for. That seems like a rather fair system for me, since there's no real way to distinguish wanted traffic from unwanted traffic and bill based on that.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:47PM (#5453448) Journal
      Every ISP should base charges only on how much traffic you send. That would give people a real incentive to keep their systems patched and secured. You wouldn't have to pay a ridiculous amount if you're on the receiving end of a DOS. You would have to pay if your systems get hacked or catch a worm though.

      Good idea but it doesn't quite go far enough.

      You should be billed for the traffic you CAUSE or SOLICIT, and thus have control over. Much of internet traffic is things like web browsing, which invovles a small request soliciting a large reply. If you suck down 60 megabytes of web porn, MP3s, or ftp downloads, it's your bill. Similarly if you host a server, which accepts little requests and pours out data, it's your bill.

      But if somebody starts sending you unsolicited packets, that's like somebody making nuisance calls or pages. (You will notice that pagers, at least, are generally NOT billed by the page. They tried that, and the customers rebelled because they had no way to block idiots with autodialers.)

      So something with a little deeper visibility is in order. Here's a fair approach:

      TCP: You get billed if you make, attempt to make, or accept, a connection. You don't get billed for attempted connections you refuse or that don't get completed (i.e. SYN and other DOS attacks).

      UDP: You get billed for outgoing UDP packets. If the billing machine is sufficiently stateful, you might also be billed for incoming UDP packets that ARE replies to a recent outgoing UDP request using a well-known UDP request/reply protocol. (This would prevent cheating but still protect you against getting billed for both DOS attacks and forged-reply billing attacks.)

      ICMP: All are free except outgoing EHCO REQUEST (ping), because they're a mandated part of the network overhead. (You don't want to bill inbound ECHO REPLIES to prevent billing for forged reply attacks. But you might bill ECHO REQUEST as if it went both inbound and outbound, to cover the expected ECHO REPLY without making the billing machine stateful about ping "connections".)

      That should pretty much cover it. Customers would:
      - be fairly billed for the bandwidth they used, caused to be used, or allowed to be used,
      - not be billed for unsolicited "phone calls", DoS attacks, or mandated network overhed, and
      - have a strong financial incentive to keep their system secured against crackers and malware (such as viruses and worms).

      And installing a get-around-the-billing hack (like PPP-over-ECHOREPLY) would be a violation of terms-of-service and cause for disconnection - or changing the billing of that customer back to "all bandwidth co$t$" B-)
  • by drfuchs ( 599179 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:07PM (#5452967)
    If someone steals my credit card number, the credit card company won't even charge me the $50 that they have the legal right to. I doubt that ISPs will be able to fare any better.
  • by chrisseaton ( 573490 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:07PM (#5452968) Homepage
    You could let them think that you were "eating the cost", but everyone ones it would simply be passed to the customers in the end.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:36PM (#5453335)
      This argument is overused. If it were true, companies wouldn't balk at paying for things, which they invariably do.

      But it's not true. If McDonalds loses $80 in a lawsuit to somebody burned with hot coffee, they *can't* just raise their prices to recoup; their prices were already set to maximize profit before. So what gives? Profit. McDonald's shareholders lose, not the public at large.

  • Simple policy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:08PM (#5452978) Homepage Journal
    Keep up to date on current worms and other bandwidth threats. Notify your customers about these threats, and provide information on how to eliminate or reduce the impact.

    Any massive bandwidth they log after that, is their responsibility. You notified them, and they did not listen.

    After a few incidents like that, they will start to listen to your warning messages.
    • Re:Simple policy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Croaker ( 10633 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:15PM (#5453081)
      Err... the problem is customers are billed by the ISP for incoming bandwidth. How is a customer supposed to stop incoming packets from some pinhead's server that got itself infected with some virus? Is the ISP allowing them to setup a firewall outside the ISP to block this stuff? If not, then saying 'hey, there are some nasty viruses going around' is pretty much beside the point. There's nothing the customer can do to block those incoming packets before they are charged for them by the ISP.

      This is a thorny issue. The real answer is that the twit whose server got owned and is spewing garbage out on the net should be responsible for paying. But enforcing that is going to be a problem.

    • Re:Simple policy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sweetooth ( 21075 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:16PM (#5453097) Homepage
      Protecting yourself from an attack, such as code red, doesn't mean it doesn't still eat bandwidth. It's the same with anything. I noticed today that my mail server was a little slugish. I sshd into it checked the logs and saw the same bastard attempting to send spam to the server and tons of rbl lookups were taking place. So I added the various ip's to the firewalls blacklist. So now the mail isn't processed, but whatever program they are using doesn't even bother to check to see if the mail is being accepted, it just keeps spamming. So, I'm still having a fairly large percentage of my bandwidth being eaten because of a very inconsiderate individual. Stopping code red was the same. At one point I was logging thousands of attempts every day. They were not successful, but they still ate the bandwidth.

      I don't know what the solution to the problem is exactly. As it stands now I pay for any bandwidth used regardless of how or why it was used. It would be much better if those charges could be passed along to the person responsible for abusing your bandwidth, but how that could be enforced is beyond me.

      One thing I have to note here is that the person posing the question is talking about INBOUND spikes not outbound. So your points are even less relevant.
      • Re:Simple policy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:58PM (#5453556)
        Here is a 'simple' policy as an ISP.

        If you are hosting business internet lines give the customers 2 options.

        1. Wide open internet. Nothing is filtered on the ISP end, as it stands today, and the customer is 100% liable for ANY traffic circulating between the internet and the customer, solicited or not.

        2. Abuse Managed Internet. Charge a fee to the customer per month, which get the customer:
        - Any abuse, aka DOS attempts removed from the monthly bandwidth
        - The ISP will filter abuse attempts before they occur, so if there is a code red floating around, allow a transparent proxy / firewall throw the packets away before it causes your customers harm.
        The trade off for the customer is more assured price, and quality of service for the price of flexability and a nominal charge.
  • by Mustang Matt ( 133426 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:08PM (#5452979)
    It sucks for them, but it's their server on the net and their responsibility to pay for the bandwidth used.
  • Is he hosting something on your servers or he has a box co-located? I would say he is responsible if he has to administer his box - otherwise, the ISP should bear the costs
  • It is the job of the ISP to properly communicate to its customers the dangers of being on the web.

    On one hand, if the ISP says that it is not accountable for attacks and internet slowdowns that it has no control over, then the people shouldn't expect anything when they happen. On the other hand, if the ISP uses this communication as an excuse not to protect itself properly against such attacks, then the customer should take his buisness elsewhere or be properly reimbursed for their losses.
  • by eagle486 ( 553102 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:10PM (#5453010)
    The customer pays what is in his contract. Make the language very explicit. There is no reason the ISP should eat it.
  • In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djKing ( 1970 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:11PM (#5453015) Homepage Journal
    Should /. pay the bill for the /. effect []?

    • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

      by unicron ( 20286 ) < minus cat> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:17PM (#5453103) Homepage
      I've always wondered about that. If you had your business on the net, and /. linked to it, causing it to go down, would /. be liabel? Assume the following before replying:

      */. did NOT warn the page
      *The page in question NEVER receives the amount of traffic necessary to bring it down.
      *Let's assume it happened on a Saturday, when they had minimal support
      *The company can PROVE they lost revenue. /. can't really play dumb, they HAVE TO know the /. effect is going to be too much for a page. It can almost be called a DoS attack at this point.
      • Well there's an easy solution for businesses: Just never have anything on your site that would interest slashdot readers (or editors). No more /. effect!
      • by ShortSpecialBus ( 236232 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:41PM (#5453393) Homepage
        unfortunately, there would have to be proof of malicious intent, or at LEAST a reasonable knowledge taht linking to the page would cause the business to lose money.
        While /. would have a reasonable knowledge taht linking to the page will cause the page to load slowly, they don't know what sort of connection the page is on, nor is it their responsibility to find out.

        The day anybody becomes liable for linking to a page on the internet will be the end of the world wide web...that's the whole premise of the thing...

        The only thing I can think of is something similar to the robots.txt file...have your webserver have a slashdot.txt file that says something like NoSlashdotLinkage = true in it or something, anything similar to the thing for preventing search engines.
  • contract... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by perlchild ( 582235 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:12PM (#5453035)
    Considering the variety of bandwidth providers, acceptable terms of service(TOS) and all that, eventually, it will become a matter of taste, preference and terms that can be agreed with. How many subscribers want traffic shaping, inbound or outbound on their interface? Wouldn't customers PAY for making sure that the only traffic spikes they can get are mail or http related? I'm sure a lot of my hosting clients would love a system where they pay for the bandwidth they use, but that limits are in place to make sure excessive bandwidth usage is actually the usage they pay for.

    Since DiffServ and other standards based solutions are ready to be implemented, perhaps you should consider talking to your most whiney clients about it?

    Yes I know it doesn't apply to all clients, and not every provider has the extra router/switch cpu power to implement them on all links...

    But wouldn't such a solution be a good way to keep the more demanding clients(increasing the value they get: bandwidth for the right traffic) and decreasing the tax hackers and Distributed DOS and misconfigured systems make them pay (for undesirable traffic). Maybe you should suggest this as a customer retention measure, for those clients where it makes business sense.

  • Is the customer ultimately responsible for the bandwidth they've generated, regardless if it's desired or not? Is this a new frontier for insurance companies?"

    Your asking this of slashdot? The literal definition of the slashdot effect?
  • The chief problem with billing according to bandwidth use, is that most users aren't keeping track of their bandwidth usage. Everyone has a feel for how much electricity they use, how much gas (petrol) they guzzle and how much their long distance bill is likely to be. But in general, people can't see the bandwidth being used.

    I propose that ISPs who wish to charge by the byte need to develop a systemtray icon (or equivalent) that allows the user to see the accumulated traffic. Then there won't be any (or as many) surprises.

  • ... which advertises on ./ all the time. Called me to warn me about the latest sql worm even though they saw on the optional order form that I was using BSD operating systems. They then offered to filter traffic on those ports until the issue died down so I wouldn't get charged.

    I was happy they cared and they where happy to have me care enough about them and me not to run M$.
  • To eat or not to eat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:13PM (#5453053)
    Well, on the one hand you have the credit card company model. They eat unauthorized charges all the time, and generally it is a good thing. Phone companies and other utilities do a similar thing, if you can prove the fraud, then they generally cut you some slack (though they might make you work for it). I think that this is a workable "consumer" friendly model. I think that generally, if one had a choice between two isp's and one said we're gonna charge you no matter what, and the other said that we won't charge you for malicous use, assuming you can prove it, then I think that the choice would be obvious (price comparos not withstanding of course).
  • simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sydlexic ( 563791 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:13PM (#5453054)
    I think it's simple to say you're responsible for your outbound traffic. If your machines are compromised, you should eat the bill for the traffic they generate. On the other hand, if you receive some wave of unwanted inbound traffic, you should definitely not be liable. Even a dropped UDP packet takes bandwidth.

    In fact, I'd prefer a pricing model that is fixed for inbound and metered on the outbound. It puts a financial burden on spammers, copyright violators and the tragic/stupid victims viruses. On the other hand, if you've got something to sell, you should be more than happy to pay for bandwidth used to move that merchandise.
  • I've been thinking about this for a while - on the one hand, I wouldn't like to get a bill if one of my sites were getting DOS'ed to hell, but on the other hand I believe there should be an effort to make spamvertised sites pay by drinking their bandwidth dry en-masse.

    As for slammer, the idiots running the servers with open ports to the databases should pay for their bandwidth - serves them right. Hell, they're already wasting money licensing the World's least secure web server, so why not throw a little more into the trashcan?
  • Balanced response. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:14PM (#5453062) Homepage
    Give them a complete or partial rebate, the first time, and have a set of "How can I protect myself?" documentation ready for the user. Email it to them, mail it to them, fax it to them, whatever it takes to get them to read it.

    Inform them that if they ignore those suggestions, and future problems end up costing them money, then they'll have to foot the bill.

    This way, the customer walks away happy and informed, and if they're really willing to be a good net citizen, they won't come back crying.

    If they're not willing to do what's required of them, they'll get stuck paying for it.
    • by johnnyb ( 4816 )
      You're missing the point - you _can't_ protect yourself from incoming traffic. Period. Even if _you_ block it with a router or firewall, it has still come into the ISP and you are billed for it.
  • is there such a thing as OC/48 bandwidth throttling?

    As far as I know, which is very little, there is no such thing. You get 2gbps and that's the end of it.. there's no such thing as "it's burstable to 10gbps..yada yada yada".. but why is the poor guy who can barely afford the T-1 getting penalized?

    Just my opinion.. everyone has one.. I got more than most.. :)

    You can't judge a book by the way it wears its hair.
  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:16PM (#5453090) Journal
    I've always wondered where the cost for bandwidth comes from. I've assumed it is related to equipment and line maintenance, costs for professionals to maintain the equipment and expand the networks, and new equipment and housing.

    Can someone give me an idea of where the price for bandwidth ultimately comes from?
  • I personally think that the current model for bandwidth needs to be changed. Right now the bandwidth providers are eating from both ends of the stick and laughing all the way to the bank. But the fact remains that many sites are not able to pay their bandwidth bills. If content on the net is disppearing, so will users.

    I would propose that content providers be given free bandwidth provided by the telcos since, after all, they are the reasons people like me pay for broadband. In effect, the consumers will subsidize the cost of the content providers. After all, that's what you really pay that $20-50/mo for... The content!
  • You know, it seems to me that if Individuals are held liable for bandwidth issues stemming from malicious users, it provides a pretty good incentive to keep their systems up to date with the latest patches.

    It also would cause Individuals to generate greater pressure on Distributors to get patches out and visible to the general public. If the general public took more of an interest in internet security, there'd potentially be much fewer DDos Zombies out there.

    There's nothing quite as eye-opening as a huge bill sitting on the table staring back at you.

    And that's my 2 cents.

  • Throttle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hajo ( 74449 )
    If you work on the ISP side you should be able to throttle bursts of bandwidth with the consent of your users. Should they decline to be throttled then you should be able to charge. Why aren't you throttleing bandwidth right now. A thousandfold increase in bandwidth use should raise suspicions unless the iste was mentioned on slashdot ;-)

  • It Depends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:19PM (#5453139)

    If you want to keep that customer, you do what it takes to keep the customer. Remember the golden rule, 1 bad customer experience gets passed onto 20 people. If you think that this customer is going to put with this, fine go ahead and charge them. If you don't you should suck it up. If they leave, not only will the money that you get from them goes to zero, but they will bad mouth you to enough other people that it does have a negative impact on you attempting to acquire more customers.

    In other words, be a good guy, suck it up and the customer will trust you more the next time you attempt to raise their bill. Blow them off and the only that you might get from them is the finger.

    • Re:It Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

      ---Blow them off and the only that you might get from them is the finger.

      If they're part of an ISP, they probably have already got FINGERD.
  • by pbryan ( 83482 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:21PM (#5453169) Homepage
    My previous employer was unfortunate enough to be attacked by a series of distributed ICMP ping flood attacks. Our bill jumped from under $1K per month (Canadian) to over $10K in less than a day.

    We adjusted our monitoring process to detect these spikes early and contact our ISP to deny traffic from the offending subnets. Luckily, our ISP was willing to do this, even though they still incurred traffic from inbound packets. Luckily, these attacks originated from a few subnets that could be isolated.

    As a further kludge, we eventually disabled ICMP altogether on our routers, and lived without ping and traceroute.

    Having a host on the net is a risky proposition. You pay for inbound and outbound traffic, regardless of the source, packet type, or quantity. DDoS attacks can not only prevent your server from being accessable, they could literally bankrupt you if you become a target and don't take preventative measures.

    Hmm... One click bankruptcy. I wonder if anyone has tried to patent this yet...

    Our ISP was technically capable of detecting and thwarting various attacks. Ultimately, the policy of monitoring and contacting an ISP when traffic exceeds a certain threshold seems like a workable solution for average co-locaters.

    Given the architecture of the Internet, it's difficult to see how we could shift the burden to pay away from the server to the client. It seems like a problem remarkably similar to the problem of spam.
  • Bad business (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Obiwan Kenobi ( 32807 ) <evan&misterorange,com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:26PM (#5453228) Homepage
    If you treat your customers like this, you're going to lose them. Simple as that.

    I liked the analogy someone else came up with, such as someone running an extension cord from your house to theirs. Who is responsible here?

    If I had hosting with your company, and the slammer bug hit servers that your sys admins failed to update, then you better eat that burstable bandwidth bill or a lawsuit couldn't be far behind (depending on the amount, of course). If the servers were my responsibility, including keeping them updated, etc, then I could understand your reasoning.

    If a DDoS attack cripples my site, and you expect me to pay for that, you're sorely mistaken.

    The simple fact is if they caused it, they paid for it. This includes patches/fixes the customer should've implemented. If you run and maintain that server for them, then no bill increase should be applied.

    If someone out in the world caused it, a random malicious event that they just so happened to be on the brunt end of, just throw away that burstable bandwidth bill and make sure your customer knows you did them a favor.

    It may not be your place as to pay for that second scenario, but you'll keep your customers longer, keep them happier and keep word of mouth on your company going strong.

    It's just good business. Were this my company, I would never even think of treating customers this way.
  • by Matt_Bennett ( 79107 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:27PM (#5453237) Homepage Journal
    If you want to keep the customer, the first time it happens, you might want to forgive the excess bandwidth charges (while pointing out the specific clause in the contract that says you have every right to charge them), tell them that it's "for this time only," and make a record of it. This is the type of action that can inspire customer loyalty. If you want to keep customers, you need to find some ways to differentiate yourself from all your competitors. Since you're keeping records, you should be able to tell if a customer is just trying to abuse your policies.

    You need to ask yourself- how much did the excess bandwidth really cost, and how much is this customer worth to me in the long run? Probably, keeping that customer will make far more impact on your company in the long term than if you charged them, pissed them off, and inspired them to switch to another ISP.
  • by paleck ( 10298 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:27PM (#5453239) Homepage
    I work for a small local ISP, before making any decisions we always look at it historically using MRTG. If the customer all of a sudden starts spiking up from their normal amount of traffic, then we will let it slide at first. We will warn them that they may need to check to see if there are any updates for their computers that can help. Also we tell them what to check for regarding P2P programs on computers that they may not know about. If it continues then we are justified in charging them more, because they didn't heed our warnings the first time. Most of the time the customers computer(s) are at fault for the bursts that are coming on their connection. Don't know if this helps in your case, but it seems to work well for us.
  • by Jim Ethanol ( 613572 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:28PM (#5453250) Homepage
    The problem with billing for excessive inbound traffic is that the user has absolutely no control over what they receive.

    You can have the most sophisticated firewall on the planet, but due the immutable laws of IPv4 you can NOT drop a packet until you see the packet. At which point you've already used the bandwidth (and incurred the cost) required to transport the packet that you're just going to drop.

    This has nothing to do with patching your server. If you don't patch your server, and you get hit with a worm, and your box starts consuming huge amounts of bandwidth to attack other hosts, then it's your fault, and its OUTBOUND traffic, and you absolutely should pay for it. But having your server patched does not stop you from receiving inbound packets. They may not harm your server when they get to it, but you already paid for the transit.

    BTW, This is why it's illegal for a telemarketer to call you on your cell phone. Because in theory you had to answer the call (and incur expense) BEFORE you knew who was on the other end.

    This is a similar issue, except that we're not talking about telemarketers... which are businesses that more or less follow the rules. We're talking about script kiddies that don't care about the rules. Or in a worse case, we're talking about a competitor, or enemy, or rival that just wants to DOS you for a month until you go out of business because of all the excess bandwidth charges you're paying!

    The technology limits the liability of the consumer. The ISP must take some responsibility here and put systems in place that protect the consumer.

    • Ok, I work for an ISP, and a damn big one at that. When one of our circuits gets hit with a Ddos, we call our upstream provider and have them block the attack at their router. We incur no cost for this, it's covered under our contract.
      Of course this is for leased lines, not metered bandwidth in most cases, but the concept remains the same. We watch our own backyard, when something happens we react and get the problem resolved. If one of our cable modems is spamming or spewing slammer all over the Earth, we notice and shut off the offender. If we didn't care to look, we would get negatively impacted, just like the guy that doesn't notice his machine spewing out slammers, or nimda, or getting slashdotted.
      Take an active role in your internet usage and you are largely immune to this sort of billing. You are responsible for your own stuff, if you aren't taking care of your stuff, I sure as hell shouldn't be expected to eat the cost.
      It is YOUR FAULT if you get four hundred and eighty million hits. You put up the site. If you get slammer, you should have patched. Quit crying about your bill and administer your system.
      Ounce of prevention, blah blah blah.
  • Utility Billing.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trefoil ( 153310 ) <`moc.teertsysae' `ta' `stnerb'> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:31PM (#5453283)
    I work for company that writes Utility Billing Software.. from the way that we see it... there's fixed and variable pricing.. make a cost benefit analysis and figure out where the break should be for people to have a fixed fee versus variable.. in events such as the slammer virus.. treat it like a water main break and eat the cost.. it's like telling someone it's there fault they drive a car, that it got broken in to.. if the bandwidth is directly attributed to a situation that is out of the users control, then don't charge them for it.. but if they don't patch up once a patch becomes available (this should also mean that you, the ISP, has the patches readily available so there is no excuse by the user for not doing it), then those later fees should be attributed to the customer..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:33PM (#5453309)
    I thought many bandwidth providers had moved to a 95th percentile model to bill for bandwidth. Ignore the top 5% of the usage samples for this month and bill at the customer's 95% usage. This means that any sudden spike doesn't count against your bandwidth. Lots of spikes, or a spike that is not handled within a day moves the 95th percentile way up.
    Our upstreams bill us this way, and all of our burstable downstream customers are billed this way. It works well that way.
  • by Rahga ( 13479 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:37PM (#5453356) Journal
    Though there are expections, here's the deal with most services providers in the united states.... if you are going to carry metered services, then you need to provide the customers with the ability to check their service usage with little to no hassle. That's what water meters and electricity matters are for. I do not know of any dial-up or broadband provider that currently offers this level of service, though my web host sure does. It's simple... if ISPs want to hold customers accountable for going over bandwidth limits, they should provide customers to check their bandwidth usage, and possibly provide reports on it and reasonable protection options.
  • by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4@yahoo. c o m> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:43PM (#5453413) Homepage
    If a phreaker biege boxes your home phone and runs up a huge bill who eats that cost?

    The answer should equate to who should eat the cost of a DoS trojon.
  • Legal Liability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:48PM (#5453455)
    What you may be interested in is where you stand legally. A RAND study made during the middle eighties (obviously not internet related) covering similar thefts returned the following conclusion.

    In the case where the theft occured (mutually) from both a commercial and private victim, the commercial victim is generally assigned the majority of the loss because they are considered to have superior knowledge and been in a better position to have prevented the theft from taking place.

    Since the theft was allowed by two enteties (the target Computer and the ISP servers that allowed the theft to take place), both entities would probably be apportioned a percentage of the cost.

    Since this has never gone to court, there is no case material to set some form of guidelines.

    My guess is that apportioning the entire blame to the customer (and billing them) would not hold up if the customer filed against you.

    Depending on what measures your ISP has taken to prevent this type of abuse (filters, scanning, etc.) you could probably get away with some form of apportionment where the customer is billed for part of the cost.

  • ITU rule on charging (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:53PM (#5453515) Homepage
    The ITU rule for telephony is that "charging begins when the connection becomes bidirectional". That's not directly applicable to raw IP, but it can be applied to anything behind a stateful firewall or DHCP router. That way, customers don't get charged for IP-level attacks, which they can't stop, but they do get charged for anything they reply to.

    Big attacks should be reported to Homeland Security. [] (Really. Effective March 1, Homeland Security runs the National Infrastructure Protection Center. ISPs are going to be dealing with them on a regular basis.)

  • by visionsofmcskill ( 556169 ) <`moc.pmteg' `ta' `noisiv'> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:54PM (#5453522) Homepage Journal
    ISP's should eat the costs.... If you provide me with a service that claims to provide me with a certain bandwidth.... then that is what i get.

    Because YOUR (isp) system of delivering bandwidth is faulty or doesnt account for abuse potentials is NOT my (consumer) fault.

    If you decide to enforce a D/L cap, i myself will not be your customer....

    If i was the average joe who opted to take on that bandwidth cost then i would blame YOU the ISP for allowing malicous data to be replicated at obvious expense.... as in if a port is responsible for great amounts of malicous (repetitive, near obvious redundant packet exchanges indicitive of an attack, worm, or virus).

    The whole thing is, as an isp... the service you provide should be a fully enclosed package... no hidden/additional costs. And bandwidth capping should not incur automatic additonal costs to the consumer after a limit is reached, it should result in a great limiting of bandwidth (after a certain amount is reached) or in a blocked connection (allow only the company's IP until the customer buys more bandwidth).

    My personal opinion, we are getting dicked by the tele-comunications industry from the top down... everything from home phones, cable, cell phones, broadband, T1's and more are greviously over-priced at a near basement cost to the mother companies. By the time a consumer recieves their data the fixed price of hardware and the cost of ELECTRICTY has been multiplied ten-fold. Mid-Range ISP's are being squeezed by the big players, and in turn are having to offer misleadingly high "bandwidth" speeds with BullShit Capping.

    Downloading megabytes into your cell-phone doesnt cost sprint shit, but youll have to pay 1.00 per DL.

    Of course the tel-co's are screaming bloody murder about their losses, but it isn't from data rates.

    As a last note.... when we were all using 56kbps modems you could DL for days on end... you could call your local BBS and be charged a phone call while DLing full-speed for hours.... No extra cost... didn't cost them a thing since we payed for the phone-call.... Now that High-Speed is in the home.... and the tel-co's found they could save even more money by offering bandwidth speeds based on diluted averages of many users, they think it's fair to make more money by punishing those who ACTUALY USE THEIR bandwidth. Bandwidth which is only ELECTRICTY. Do you honestly think Time warner can offer 500 channels of digital cable, with "on demand" channels (where you can choose a movie and play it immedietly) for 60$ bucks a month and not provide that same (nearly continuous) data rate to internet connections?

    luckily.... with the advent of online movies, music and application servers and such, soon even joe email will be needing a constant high-speed connection.

    Just my two cents.... VISION
    --Enter The Sig--
    • by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:26PM (#5453779)
      Burstable bandwidth means you're paying for this much - but if your server for some reason needs more, instead of being screwed and dropping connections, your server gets more bandwidth, which you pay for.

      Good for low-useage servers with very short spikes of popularity.

      You've just said that the ISP should eat the cost of the extra bandwidth...why? You agreed to burstable charges...they gave you more in advance, on condition you would pay for it with your next bill.

      "Because YOUR (isp) system of delivering bandwidth is faulty or doesnt account for abuse potentials is NOT my (consumer) fault."

      "If you decide to enforce a D/L cap, i myself will not be your customer...."

      With that type of an attitude, you're saying you are entitled to unlimited bandwidth. The datacenter has an OC-48 into it...does that mean you're entitled to that? Not unless you paid for it...

      The network has the capability to deliver high speeds, but if you didn't pay for that speed you're not entitled to it any more than someone who doesn't have the service at all is.
  • by raarts ( 5057 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @06:55PM (#5453535)

    Suppose you live on a crosspoint of several countries. Your house happens to be located in a dangerous curve on the road. Also for some reason your house looks to some kiddies like it asks to be vandalized.

    For these reasons you get a lot of breakin attempts, occasionally a truck crashes through your walls. All this is not only by people from your own country, but from neighbouring countries as well.

    You install warning lights and other measures so cars and trucks don't come in crashing. You call the police when kiddies vandalize your home, but they says they can't do anything.

    All this costs you a lot of money and headaches.

    In real life there are several ways to defend yourself:

    • taking your own safety measures as can reasonably be expected from a houseowner
    • get insured for the unexpected
    • trust the police the catch criminals
    • trust international law enforcement for border-crossing crimes

    Now apply these principles to your hosting server.

    • Of course you should take every precaution within reason to prevent your server from being hacked (keep it up to date folks)
    • Get an insurance for unexpected costs. I'll bet insurance companies could do well here
    • Trust the cops for catching the script kiddies and real criminals. Alas, the police is hopeless understaffed and low on resources for these new crimes. Also legislation is lagging behind
    • International laws? Don't count on it. Same as above, but worse.

    Suppose your house is rented. Is the person renting you the house responsible for every breach? Did he warn you before you signed the contract? Is it his responsability to call you every time some vandals are passing on the road? Or some truck may crash into your home?

    Of course your ISP can warn you for every threat that may be coming, but what if there's no warning time? Or he misses a small thing that happens to affect your server bigtime? Is the ISP really responsible?

    Be careful out there...

  • Hrm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:03PM (#5453587)
    Well, here's the scenario people seem to be putting forth:

    ISP A has customer X. ISP B has malicious user Y. Malicious user Y sends huge quantities of packets to user X.

    The question seems to be, should ISP A eat the cost, or should customer X eat it? Why the hell are those the only two options?! It seems to me like ISP *B* should eat the cost, since the malicious packets were sent through their network in the first place. ISP B can attempt to recover their loss directly from malicious user Y.

    The ISP *and* the customer are both victims in a DOS attack. Whoever runs the network which *initiated* the attack should be responsible.

  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:10PM (#5453653) Journal
    Since this is dealing with INBOUND traffic, there are only two sources: Legitimate requests that the user should be responsible for, and illigitimate requests from spammers, worms, and other attackers, where the attacker is responsible.

    Under criminal and most other law, the criminal becomes liable for both direct and indirect damages. As an example, if a gang robs a bank and a gang member gets shot by a clerk, the gang leader is charged with homicide/murder/manslaughter, as appropriate. In this case, the spammer, worm originator, or other attacker should similarly be held liable for direct and indirect damages -- meaning everything from bandwidth to cleanup.

    IPv6 allows many security features, including authentication and nonrepudiation. An ISP (or anyone for that matter) can easily use their logs to verify that packets are from a particular source. By rejecting all packets unless traceable, and then keeping the traces around, the responsible party can be easily found by talking to everyone along the chain until someone either has no logs or originated the attack.

    Once you've found the person, simply either eat the cost as is done now (if they are a little person infected with a worm/virus but don't have logs), OR try to get money from them and blacklist from future systems (if they are a real criminal).

    Something I would LOVE to see is a system that holds everyone responsible. An Internet where to get an address block you sign away certain rights. You would assert that you will either keep logs of all activities or pay for any damages [see above]. When any software is released for use on this new network, the software company would be held liable for damage done by their software [see Outlook worms]. Any software using the network would have to properly record all network transactions thorugh cryptographicly secure undeniable means. Lastly, all commercial communication, unless specific one-to-one talking or client/server requests like the web, would be strictly forbidden, again with damages paid [no spam]. That is my Dream Internet.


  • by NFW ( 560362 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:26PM (#5453783) Homepage
    CmdrTaco will pay.

    One way or another...

    Oh yes, he will pay.

  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:26PM (#5453785) Homepage
    Instead of shutting down high bandwidth users or charging them extra fees, the ISPs should just prioritize packets: the more bandwidth a user uses, the more his packets get deprioritized. That way the heavy users get to use all the "leftover bandwidth" that the light users didn't use, and the light users get priority (and hence, good network performance).

    Such a setup would allow for full utilitization of the network bandwidth and avoid all the hassle of pissing people off by sending them extra bills or suspending their account.

  • by Gossy ( 130782 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:32PM (#5453824)
    The ISP is charged by its provider for the bandwidth, and if the ISP suddenly has massive bandwidth utilisation during a month, and they have to pay extra, then it's understandable that they should pass the cost down to the customer.

    However, if you think about it - the ISP wont be having to pay its provider more if it does "Above 1Mb/s on *this* pipe.. above .5Mb/s on *this* pipe .. " that they dish out to clients. It actually would get charged if it goes over "300Mb/s" on their providing line(s). (I could be wrong on this - perhaps most of the middle to big sized ISPs/Colos just have to pay a fixed rental, but I'm sure this is how it how it is for the small ISPs/colo facilities)

    What if the ISP doesnt hit the utilisation required for it to be charged extra, but individual systems within its network get hit hard by a particular virus? (Slammer for example didn't pick IPs properly at random, so some IPs would be hit, others wouldn't)

    In this situation, I think the ISP should let them off the fee. The ISP hasn't been charged any extra for the slammer traffic, so it should let the customer off the charge. It'll do wonders for loyalty if you can see your provider is fair and reasonable about things.

    The other situation to consider is when an ISP does get billed by its backbone provider heavily for extreme and unsual utilisation.

    Alright, hold that thought. Right at the top levels of backbone providers, there is no direct cost associated with using 80% or 10% of a backbone line. It simply is. It's at this stage I think, that they should possibly relieve their clients of bills that are easily attributed to big viruses that are doing the rounds. Granted, then what do you do about spam? Where do you draw the line as to what is 'unsolicted/extreme/garbage' traffic?

    Another solution I've just thought of is to extend the period that an average is worked out over, so that over the year if you're under 1Mb/s, you don't get charged extra. It should even out massive, but short lived spikes from worms such as Slammer.

    Yes, I know contracts are normally clear about traffic levels and bills that you will receive if you break them, but I do think it's unfair for a small site that has just gone colo to suddenly get a bill 10x its normal bill since the latest worm has been targetting its machine, primarily since there is no direct cost to the ISP, or the ISPs provider, that can be attributed to this extra traffic (as long as there is spare capacity!).
  • by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:35PM (#5453846)
    People should be accountable. If their PC is infected with a worm or virus which results in a large bandwidth bill, the customer is responsible to pay it. Afterall, the ISP has a bandwidth bill to pay too, and they certainly don't get a "service credit" just because your Windoze box has W32@Klez.

    In addition, Making the people responsible for their personal worm/virus traffic would make folks would be more proactive about virus prevention and more cautious of which sites they visit. This IMHO is a Good Thing.

    Another potential positive would be that people might start wondering "Why does my friend/relative who runs Linux never complain about viruses?" and "Gee with all these viruses that only affect microsoft products, maybe I should look elsewhere for my software needs."

    At least in my state, you are responsible for your car's emissions. If your car is polluting above the state limit, regardless of the reason, it is your responsibility to fix it. They don't care what the reason is for your excessive emissions, whether it was rust, hungry chipmunks, incompetant redneck mechanics, or just a poorly built ford suv. And they have a system of mandatory repairs and/or fines in place to enforce this. This is a Good Thing.
  • by Hornstar ( 588411 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @07:41PM (#5453898)

    What many posts in this thread do not seem to take into account is the greater reality that is the web. With a completely patched server and firewalling that drops packets not desired to hit said server, incoming bandwidth is changed none-whatsoever. You have zero control over traffic until that traffic hits a device under your direct control. With most ISP's, that device can only be placed well past their traffic monitoring point. Ergo, you pay for bandwidth whether you want it or not.

    You do have the ability to reduce the total amount of bandwith consumed by dropping unwanted return connections but that may be irrelevant if your site is subjected to a DDoS attack.

    The largest problem lies in determining whether traffic is "legitimate" traffic BEFORE it passes through the ISP's network to the client. That said, there are a great many possible ways to accomplish this, such as:

    • Historical traffic pattern comparisons: A connection that has never received a UDP packet in its history may not suddenly want 2Gb worth of UDP queries. That traffic can be dropped (or at least throttled) to minimize customer impact.
    • Customer specified port use: Offer co-lo customers the ability to limit port access at the ISP router, offer to limit basic Internet Service customers to standard outgoing ports at same.
    • Reality-based connection management: An amalgam of the above, if a client machine suddenly starts generating continuous outgoing connections to web servers, it might be possible that the client does not want to view 400 porn sites per minute. Use logic and reason to control outgoing and incoming traffic.

    The above are merely ideas or concepts, I will leave implementation to those that require the features. But it gives a good idea of the directions that an ISP can go to mitigate the costs of unwanted bandwidth. Just like Credit Card companies will call a customer to verify that they really do want to purchase that Tiffany diamond in a State they've never visited before, maybe ISP's should be monitoring traffic for irregular patterns and contacting customers to verify that the traffic is legitimate.

    ISP's can't merely turn a blind eye when the entire netblock they serve starts sending or receiving traffic generated by the latest worm, virus, etc. They should do their best to mitigate their losses and losses of their customers.

    I'm not saying that customers are without blame, just that the people running ISP's may have more technical knowledge that that of their customers and should be proactive in protecting those customers from further harm. If you want a real-world, non-technical example, think Firestone and Ford. A problem created outside of Ford that could have been eliminated before reaching the customer if only greater due dilligence had been used. By ignoring or overlooking the problem (I don't know the exact details) both Ford and its customers were negatively impacted. Was it Ford's fault that the tires were faulty? No. Could they have done something about the tires earlier? Possibly. Could the customer do something about the tires? Yes, but only after they knew of the problem by experiencing the negative consequences.

    The scenario doesn't differ much when applied to unwanted bandwidth. If ISP's fail to do their part, unwitting customers will always suffer.

  • by Above ( 100351 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @08:02PM (#5454085)
    This is like having your credit card stolen. If you notice, and notify the company promptly so they can start blocking charges then you are only out $50 (and sometimes they even waive that). However if you don't notice until your bill comes at the end of the month that it's been gone for a whole month, then you're out the whole amount.

    Same thing for bandwidth. If the customer notices a problem and notifies the ISP so they can take steps to block / track the attack then they shouldn't have to pay. However, if they are too lazy to monitor their own gear, and/or call the ISP they deserve every dollar they get charged. The customer needs to be a partner with the ISP in fighting these sorts of things, otherwise the ISP never has a chance to catch the real criminals.

    Of course, all this is for medium size and up ISP customers. Smaller businesses and/or individuals may just want a "turn it off if it goes above x" until I call model, which is completely reasonable.
  • by rcs1000 ( 462363 ) <rcs1000 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @08:31PM (#5454372)
    I was quite amused to read this story and the follow-ups.

    Two days ago I put my personal web-site up. It's sitting on a linux box (Apache) behind my firewall, which only lets incoming connections initiated on port 80 through.

    In two days I have had maybe 100 hack attempts. All using variations on "GET /something/cmd.exe" or "GET /something/dir.exe". I'm amused, 'cause my Linux box ain't going to get hacked that way.

    But, WTF... they're using up MY bandwidth. Why can't ISPs take some responsibility for detecting script kiddies. There can be exactly no un-patched useless WinNT boxen out there. Why shouldn't Mr ScriptKiddy be asked to pay for the bandwidth?

    In telephones (in the UK, at least), calling party pays. If someone is hammering my bandwidth malicously (or at least dumbly) why should they pay?

    And why can't get an ISP that "traps" stupid requests, and reports them to the users ISP. Too many issues and that ISP is blocked.

    Why not?

    (I'm thinking about setting up a DDOS system on anybody that tries to 'hack' my server. Just for a laugh, obviously.)
  • How it works here (Score:5, Informative)

    by ziegast ( 168305 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @09:53PM (#5454976) Homepage
    I currently work for an ISP that offers shared and dedicated web services. The Terms of Service that the customer signs are pretty explicit about their being responsible for bandwidth usage.

    A few notes about charging for bandwidth:
    • As a hosting provider, we get charged for traffic in the greater of two directions - outbound. We don't normally charge customers for inbound bandwidth.

    • We rate limit traffic from all servers to 10Mbps as a precaution to protect ourselves. Being a relatively small provider, it is VERY rare that we or a customer of ours runs a server that generates more than 1-2 MBps of traffic. Everyone has a 10/100 port though, so the potential for a customer (or a customer's hacked machine) to do damage is possible. If someone wants the rate limit removed, we warn them again that they are responsible for their traffic.

    • We offer rate limiting to our customers if they are afraid about bandwidth costs. This might normally be a 1.5x the rate they're normally budgeting each month. Many customers find that rate limiting makes their site too slow, but riding a bike with training wheels is slow too (but you're less likely to fall down).

    • We charge by GigaBytes per mo. It's easy to track in web logs and packet counters and customers can write scripts to monitor how much they've used during the month and take appropriate steps toward teh end of the month. This amounts to our charging for average (50th percentile) pricing. We charge enough so that even if they spiked at twice their average, we wouldn't lose money on our bandwidth costs. On average, though, we make money.

    • If a customer doesn't pay, we shut them off and can take them to small claims court based on the TOS agreement.

    These are some of the steps we use to protect ourselves and our customers. Your milage may vary.

    (We use packeteer for rate limiting, but I keep eyeballing OpenBSD/AltQ/PF for both rate limiting and firewalling for our customers).
  • by rnapier ( 607622 ) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @10:56PM (#5455398)
    There's been a lot of talk comparing this to vandals coming and screwing with your server or your property. This isn't like that. If your server gets trashed, that's your problem. The issue here is incoming bandwidth that you didn't ask for and have done everything in your power to make go away.

    Compare this to someone constantly text-messaging spam to your wireless phone. You could quickly run up an insane bill that way, and there's really nothing you could do about it. The wireless company is contractually in its rights to charge you.

    But it won't.

    That's how they work. Someone screws with you, typically the provider eats it, especially if there was nothing you could do about it. That puts the incentive back onto the one entity who can actually do something about it: the providers. True for wireless. True for credit cards. True for just about anything where the end user can't do anything to stop the abuse.

    The ISPs can do something about it. They have chosen not to because of how we (the geeks) developed the internet. It's too trusting. But at the end of the day, your ISP does know who you are, because they send you a bill. And they could apply uniform terms of service if they chose to, and only talk to other ISPs who have similar terms.

    The RBLs are the future. They just don't go far enough. When they're willing to not just cut off SMTP but entire connectivity to other ISPs who aren't willing to play by uniform rules, then we'll start to see some changes. What kinds of rules? Here's some for starters:

    • Authenticated mail only. Yep, this looks like banks' "know your customer" rules. You can be anonymous all you like up to the point that you connect to the mailer. But the guy who forwards mail for you is going to be held responsible for your behavior. Yes, that will radically change the free-service providers (yahoo, hotmail, etc). They're free to come up with solutions that don't require them to know exactly who you are, but if they host spammers, we're not going to talk to them. This is just the logical extension of RBLs.
    • Same deal for acting as a DDoS zombie. The owner of the unpatched box is responsible, but it's the responsibility of the ISP to be able to identify that person for legal action. If they can't or won't, then we don't talk to them.
    None of this says that you can't be anonymous most of the time. It just says that if you're disrupting service and causing real losses due to your actions or lack of actions, your ISP is going to have to hand you over, or they're going to be held responsible. The right to privacy has to be balance with responsibility for your actions.

    The old-world networks (phones) have worked this way for years. I can block my out-bound caller-id. I can have an unlisted phone number. I can be very anonymous on the phone. But if I'm named in a law suit or criminal complaint, the phone company will hand me over in a heart beat. The only way around this is pay phones with cash. It's hard to run a large-scale scam that way.

    And no, this doesn't mean that an ISP's logs are free game to the RIAA. But it does mean that if the RIAA wants to name a specific "unknown party" in a lawsuit, the ISP is obligated to identify them. Before you get excited, that's exactly the current situation. The RIAA just wants to get the info without actually suing you (which is wrong, and luckily some ISPs have resisted). ISPs need to be willing to say they will only interconnect with other ISPs who play by the same rules.

    Yes, this will fragment the internet for a short period of time. So do the RBLs. But economics will fix it fast enough, especially if entire connectivity is cut off.

  • by adri ( 173121 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @12:27AM (#5455926) Homepage Journal
    So far, I think many posters have forgotten one simple fact.

    ISPs don't have infinite bandwidth.

    I know, its quite a strange idea. But think of this.

    If you're a ISP in a single location, chances are you're buying a few (hundred?) megabits off your upstreams. Unless your upstreams are happy to filter traffic they send to you (and unless its a very large DDoS, most of them will take a while to implement any access control), the ISP will still be charged for traffic sent to a customer even if the customer chooses to reject it.

    Similarly, if the ISP provides filtering support for their customers, they still receieve the traffic and bite the usage.

    Now, if you're a large ISP and have links to other peering exchanges. Even, say, you peer enough to not really need transit. These inter-state links still cost money. And they're fixed. So if a customer is hit with a DDoS they'll still be carrying it _somewhere_.

    Even if this mythical tier-${LOWNUM} ISP with lots of fat peering links has some magical scripts to filter out DDoS traffic to a given customer range, it still will hit their border routers. So their peering cross connects have already been filled. The only way around this is to deal with their peers.. .. Now for the juicy bits. This happens. Every day. The large network NOCs are in constant communication with each other about large DDoS attacks. The little ones slip through the cracks until people complain but generally the large network NOCs will have many other issues to deal with so in a way I don't really blame them.

    But they don't really have the incentive to spend all their time dealing with smaller networks being attacked. They'd be worried with keeping their network from melting under a few larger ones.

    The flipside. If you're an ISP with enough bandwidth (and not high-profile sites like irc servers or pr0n) you might be willing to bite the costs of various attacks as part of a marketing point. Customers may come to you because you have a reputation of being lenient under attacks. Perhaps. But thats a delicate line.

    Me, I dig flatrate pipes. Usage based pipes is just asking to be owned by excess traffic. If I buy a megabit then all I really have to worry about is service degradation due to DoS. ISPs, in my experience, will help you with that. But if you're on a usage based pipe which then gets owned by a DDoS you're struggling after the fact to get a rebate. Good luck.

    (Although, that said, perhaps you guys should consider asking for usage based pipes that _have_ a bandwidth cap. Figure out what your maximum spend amount is, say 5mbit, and then ask for a usage-based pipe based on that. That way you limit your liability _AND_ getting the cheaper transit. Most of the time.)
  • You should allow your customers to set an incoming quota. Anything higher (per minute? per hour?) Is bounced. (Not held.)

    If the users don't set a quota, then they are liable. If they do, then you are the insurance carrier. (I guess that it has to be an extra cost service.)

    It is important to customers that they be able to predict the size of their connection bill. If they can't, this can cause a lot of trouble. But you could offer an insurance policy that basically says "You won't have to pay more than X amt. I'll bounce the excess if a spike happens." You might want to think carefully, though, about what your cost exposure would be, before you decide on the cost of the policy. (Even having an expensive policy, though, should be a reasonable answer to the current customer complaints.)
  • Problem is... (Score:3, Informative)

    by karlm ( 158591 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:11AM (#5456292) Homepage
    Slammer was UDP, so people got full traffic even if they only had port 80 open. Unless customers have the option of port-based filtering on the upstream side of the connection and/or putting a cap on total bandwidth usage for the account, it's hard to make the claim that it's a risk the customer should have dealt with. Fluctuations in thousands of percents over the previous month's bill is really painful. It seems irresponsible to open up customers to such risks without giving them any ability whatsoever to mitigate the risks. ISPs also have a responsibility to the community not to be lazy and "piss in the communal pool" by standing by and not offering (via phone or email) to filter out traffic (bi-directionally at the customner's discretion) from these internet-wide security macro-events.

    Ideally you'd be able to roll over bandwidth for exactly one month as in subtracting the previous month's rollover at the end of the month. Your bandwith would be continously throttled to the rate at which you'd expend all of your bandwdth at the end of the month. Without rollover, the ISPs would have a huge sawtooth pattern in monthly load and one of the sides of the teeth being nearly vertical. The rollover is more for the benefit ofthe ISPs than anything, so is upstream port blocking, allowing ISPs to blockunwanted traffic at its boarders.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor