Risk
3/11/2011
06:19 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Botnet Threat: More Visibility Needed

According to a report released by The European Network and Information Security Agency the current ways botnets are measured are lacking - and it just may be hurting the fight against the zombie plague.

According to a report released by The European Network and Information Security Agency the current ways botnets are measured are lacking - and it just may be hurting the fight against the zombie plague.The report, Botnets: Measurement, Detection, Disinfection, and Defence says the fuel behind the success of botnets are threefold: 1) The ease and cost of infecting a user's PC with malware; 2) The profit which can be gained by running a botnet (which is related to the effectiveness of defensive measures against up-and-running botnets), and 3) The probability and severity of criminal sanctions against the perpetrator.

In short, botnets are easy to propagate, highly profitable, and provide operators a low risk of being busted by the authorities. That's the perfect set of market ingredients to bake many, many botnets.

Unfortunately, the 150 page report found that's not likely to change any time soon. That's because current methods used to measure the size of botnets aren't accurate and researchers really don't know how big these networks get. Additionally, the size of the network, the report states, isn't the best way to measure the risk of these things. That's because these networks can't be easily morphed, thereby changing the threat they pose.

Fighting botnets is part technological, part end user awareness, and as the report found, part regulatory and through increased international cooperation. From the report:

• The current legal frameworks of various EU Member States and their national diversity in the context of cybercrime are a key factor in the efficiency of the fight against botnets. The applicability of promising detection and mitigation approaches is also limited through certain conflicts between data protection laws and laws that ensure a secure operation of IT services. Finally, working processes increase the reaction time to the extent that they can be evaded with little effort by criminal individuals, capitalising on the ease with which botnets can be configured. For more information on the legal issues identified in the context of botnets.

• The global botnet threat is best countered by close international cooperation between governments and technically-oriented and legislative institutions. For an efficient supranational mitigation strategy to work, cooperation between stakeholders must be intensified and strengthened by political will and support. In this context, the standardisation of processes for information exchange plays an important role. This includes reports about incidents, identified threats, and evidence against criminal individuals, ideally leading to their arrest, as well as mechanisms for maintaining the confidentiality of shared information and establishing the trustworthiness of its source.

Just as is the case with viruses, spyware, and other types of malware - the battle against botnets is a long haul, and more about managing the risk than it is about defeating it outright.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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