The Obama administration has picked its next digital target: Botnets, networks of computers that hackers can aim at a single website, overloading it with illegitimate traffic and knocking it offline — all unbeknownst to the owners of the computers involved.
To fight against botnets, the White House has endorsed a voluntary plan built around principles developed by the Industry Botnet Group, or IBG, a group of telecom non-profit and trade organizations.
Some of the group’s recommendations include coordinating anti-botnet efforts across different sectors and countries, single firms sharing lessons learned with other businesses and respecting the privacy of Internet users during anti-botnet operations.
“The issue of botnets is larger than any one industry or country,” White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said in a statement. “This is why partnership is so important. The principles the IBG are announcing today draw on expertise from the widest range of players, with leadership coming from the across the private sector, and partnering with the government on items like education, consumer privacy and key safeguards in law enforcement.”
Additionally, the “Stop, Think, Connect” campaign, sponsored by several companies including Microsoft, PayPal and Google, also took the opportunity to announce a joint educational effort with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. Called the “Keep a Clean Machine” campaign, the program aims to teach average computer users and businesses how to avoid, detect and get rid of botnets and other malicious code.
The White House also said that the FBI and Secret Service had “stepped up private sector information sharing,” which led to the successful elimination of botnet networks. Meanwhile, a financial industry organization announced a plan to share information about botnet attacks with firms outside the financial sector.
Computer security firm McAfee said that nearly five million computers worldwide have taken part in botnet attacks.
How should people and businesses protect themselves from botnets? Share your thoughts in the comments.