The U.S. government has announced new efforts to take down botnets, cranking out a joint pilot program to commence later this year that will collaborate with the Internet service providers and financial services sector.
The program will theoretically alert Internet customers as to when their computers are affected with malware and will share botnet information to improve the security of things like online banking. Further details about the pilot program will be revealed in about a month’s time, says Bill Nelson, president of the Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
There’s also the Industry Botnet Group, a “coalition of trade associations and nonprofit groups.” They have unveiled a set of principles to call on industry collaboration to share information and analyse the threat of botnets. A campaign called “Keep a Clean Machine” has also been launched to help users determine threats and figure out how to better protect themselves against botnets.
For the uninitiated, a botnet is a collection of compromised computers is used to help cybercrooks send spam, commit identity theft crimes and otherwise create havoc. Each computer in the collection is called a “bot” and malware “commands” each bot to become part of the larger botnet. A “bot herder” typically takes charge of the computers in the botnet through network protocols like IRC and so on.
Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft, was present at a White House forum on cybersecurity Wednesday and noted how botnets have become more common and are essentially the “weapons of choice” for cybercrooks around the world. “They add power and create a truly potent threat to all of us who use computers today,” said Smith. “The sheer magnitude of that problem makes one thing all too clear: This is not a problem anyone can solve alone.”
The U.S. government and private sector have collaborated over botnets in the past and are hoping to meet the problem head-on. In March, a voluntary “code of conduct” was implemented in order to help companies notify customers as to infected computers.
According to data, over five million computer systems were infected with botnets between January and March of this year.