With online security alerts and virus attacks at an all-time high, SBC Communications on Monday launched an anti-hacker research center aimed at protecting consumers and Internet networks from security violations.

The Dallas, TX-based telecommunications giant said the Internet Assurance and Security Center (IASC) laboratory would mimic servers, firewalls and other structures of an ISP to detect and neutralize attacks and unwanted content from carrier networks.

SBC, which has teamed with mega-portal Yahoo for a high-speed and dial-up ISP services said the anti-hacker lab was created in response to the rising tide of Internet security violations, such as viruses, worms and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

Citing statistics from the CERT Coordination Center which shows that Internet security violations more than double each year, SBC said the Austin, TX-based research center would uncover new and innovative ways to expand the scope and effectiveness of cyber-security technology.

"Internet and network security violations are at an all-time high, and the problem demands our immediate attention," said Fred Chang CEO of SBC Technology Resources, the company's R&D arm that will be managing the center.

Immediately, the IASC lab plans to will focus on developing security technologies and standards that can be applied throughout large telecommunications networks that handle Internet, voice and data traffic for consumers and businesses.

While the majority of anti-hacking efforts are targeted towards end-users, SBC said its research facility would support a holistic approach that covers all elements of the targeted network. Ideally, officials expect the lab to produce some early anti-hacker technologies within 18 months and expanded innovations in three to five years.

About a half-dozen researchers would work towards anti-hacking advances in network-based platforms. "Security functions could be shared among multiple subscribers on a network, relieving some of the burdens placed on individual users to take security precautions, and ensuring that all subscribers are protected by the latest technology," the company said.

It is operating under the premise that attacks and unwanted content could be stopped in the carrier network, preventing congestion of subscriber links. SBC engineers also believe security technology components in different parts of the network could correlate information and collaborate to thwart attacks.

"In addition to investigation of security technologies and systems in general, the IASC will focus on approaches for embedding security components in the network," the company said.

The company, which provides wireline and wireless telecommunications services and equipment, found security components in several parts of its network could be designed to detect unusual flows of traffic converging on a particular customer. "Once it is determined that this behavior is a distributed denial-of-service attack, the network could automatically filter the offending traffic from multiple locations," SBC explained.

Another area of focus for the IASC would be the creation of new security specifications for telco equipment providers. The plan is for the IASC to work with vendors to encourage widespread adoption of security standards for their components, creating a "designed-in" element of security that will protect networks from the ground up.

It said the IASC would serve as a hub for collaboration with existing security research efforts in government, academia and industry.