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BARCELONA -- Professional hackers are behind an increase in cyber attacks in recent months, an executive for AT&T Inc. (T) said Wednesday, adding that the company has seen such attacks double in number over the last four months.
"We used to see it come in huge waves. Now we're seeing smaller attacks coming up the stack. So they're getting smarter," Frank Jules, AT&T's president of global business solutions, said at the Morgan Stanley TMT Conference in Barcelona.
"They're inside your systems and they're testing, testing, testing every day for weak spots," Mr. Jules said.
AT&T's disclosure comes as attackers have been targeting major companies in high-profile attacks that have hobbled websites. In September, such attacks hit J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and Bank of America Corp (BAC). AT&T's networks were involved in some of those attacks, Mr. Jules said.
"The banks are under siege," he said.
Mr. Jules declined to comment on who has been behind the wave of attacks, saying AT&T is cooperating with investigators. But he characterized the hackers as "professionals"
AT&T hopes to cash in on a rising need for security, with services to help stave off so-called denial-of-service attacks, for instance, which intend to interrupt services for users. Mr. Jules predicted that cyber security could become a $40 billion industry, and that security will become a "billion-dollar business for us."
-Write to Sam Schechner and Sven Grundberg, The Wall Street Journal, sam.schechner @wsj.com
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